Trump Cuts May Eliminate Rural Flights
Some of the cost-cutting suggested in the Trump administration budget released on Thursday includes the elimination of federal subsidies for small airline flights from Billings to five rural communities in Eastern Montana. The cuts would target the 39-year-old Essential Air Service, which subsidizes Cape Air flights from Billings to Glasgow, Glendive, Havre, Wolf Point and Sidney.
Without the federally-subsidized program, Cape Air would probably not be able to afford to continue operating the service, which peaked during the Bakken boom. The program has bipartisan support from Montana U.S. Senator Steve Daines and Senator Jon Tester. In 2016, over 37,000 passengers boarded subsidized Cape Air flights in Montana, down 15 percent from the previous year, according to the Montana Department of Transportation. The cost of the flights is about $100 round trip, and would likely be more than $500 without the subsidy.