Flight and rural places

Rural air service to places like the Iron Range is somewhat controversial. It’s expensive to serve areas like this, certainly less profitable for airlines than running regular flights out of populated hubs. Nevertheless, regional economies rely heavily on the ability to get people in and out of these places, where companies and entrepreneurs still have job-creating interests. That’s why for many years the federal government has subsidized flights out of the Range Regional Airport in Hibbing and other regional airports.

The cost of these subsidies has been criticized by fiscal conservatives like U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8), a former airline pilot himself who represents this area. Yesterday, the center-left think tank MN2020 held a press event at the Hibbing airport defending the economic benefits of regional air flights. At stake is whether air service to these places will survive the decade. It’s an important debate. Minnesota Public Radio’s Dan Kraker wrote a compelling story about the discussion this week as well.


  1. Party affiliation aside, it is a mystery to me why an elected official would argue to ghettoize their own district. Maybe there is a fundamental principle at play here: we need to cut costs. If that is the case, let me remind everyone that we have thousands of non-civilian aircraft operating around the globe at taxpayer expense (and sometimes to less-than-noble purpose) whose monetary cost dwarfs that of the commercial air service subsidy. And yet, the $200 per seat figure cited in the MPR piece is supposed to make taxpayers choke.

  2. cjh…It’s not the $200 per seat that makes most folks choke, it’s the fact that for each $200 we spend, we’re borrowing $86 of it from the Chinese.

    To the 47% of federal tax filers who pay no income tax or those who have no kids or grandkids to whom we’re leaving a debt of $47,000 each…you’re right, it’s no big deal.

    To the 53% who are paying the $200 it IS a big deal.

    They’re wondering why they should pay for Bob Anderson and his family’s airline ticket to Hibbing.

    No wonder Bob says – “It’s great, and no charge for the parking”. No wonder “Bob makes several round trips here every year to visit his cabin in Ely, where he grew up”.

    How nice for Bob…

  3. Notwithstanding the personal resentment directed at the Bob Andersons of the world, the core argument appears to be: “We sure wouldn’t want any airplanes to come into Hibbing.”

  4. I hold no animosity against Bob whatsoever. I, like Bob, take full advantage of all government programs from which I can benefit…even if I don’t support the program in the first place(such as getting a $75 tax credit for my new air conditioner). We’d be fools not to.

    I also have nothing against as many airplanes as demand requires fly into Hibbing…but give those who use the service the satisfaction of paying for it.

    If Bob really wants to come home to his cabin, you can bet he’ll find a way. I find it bizarre that you and I should pay for his ticket. The logic escapes me.

  5. Hey, whaddya know:


    I still contend the subsidy is small potatoes. Trying to eliminate it in the name of fiscal responsibility would be a foolish, short-sighted move.

  6. Millions of subsidy dollars isn’t small potatoes to those paying for it cjh…

    You still didn’t respond to the question of – Why should you & I pay for Bob’s ticket when he’s fully capable of doing so himself?

  7. You’re not paying for Bob’s ticket at all; you’re paying Delta to provide air service on an underperforming route. Absent that, there is no air service to Hibbing and thus no ticket for Bob — or a job candidate, an entrepreneur, someone visiting an ailing relative, or anyone else — to buy at any price. You may find that to be a desirable state of affairs; others disagree.

  8. Minnesota Public Radio, Nov. 13,2011:

    “Delta Air Lines’ three daily flights connecting Hibbing and Minneapolis on planes that carry 34 passengers are usually only about a third full. Delta officials say that’s not enough to break even. So the federal government pays the airline nearly $3 million every year — about $200 per passenger — to keep those flights going”.

    cjh – If Bob and the other 34 passengers per flight paid what it cost Delta, another $200 each, you and I wouldn’t have to pay the $200 for them.

    I take it you never been in business for yourself or worked in the private sector?

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