LARAMIE — Cheyenne's Great Lakes Airlines has been booted as the "Essential Air Service" carrier of choice for Laramie Regional Airport.
If the federal government approves the local change, SkyWest Airlines will take wing by Oct. 1 in Laramie, taking over the federal program at the small airport. Essential Air Service is a federally supported program that subsidizes airline costs to keep services going to smaller regional airports like Laramie that are not within 70 miles of a medium-sized airport hub or larger.
The airport has reported it hopes the change to SkyWest's normally reliable service will bump up the amount of enplanements at the airport by about 10 percent, which will keep the federal subsidies received by the airline in place. The airport receives nothing directly from the current subsidies of about $1 million per year.
The Essential Air Service program, established during the Carter administration as a way to keep fallout at small airports minimal after airline deregulation, has drawn a lot of fire recently. Some journalists seeking to see how essential the services actually are have taken flights, only to realize the only other people on the flight were paid to be there. But instead of phasing out the $200 million program, many congressmen are voting to enlarge it, including Republicans who often complain about government waste.
U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis from Wyoming has said she would be willing to cut the program gradually.
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