On Tuesday, the House approved an amendment authored by U.S. Representatives Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01) and Don Young (AK) that would help ensure small communities in Hawaii and Alaska continue to have air service.
The Essential Air Service (EAS) provides subsidies to air carriers who service small communities, like Kalaupapa and Kamuela. Over the years, changes to the program have limited the number of communities that can receive EAS support.
A provision in the 2014 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations bill would place further prohibitions on funding for certain EAS communities; the Hanabusa-Young amendment changes the language to exclude Hawaii and Alaska from the provision.
"As an island state, Hawaii is uniquely dependent on air transportation," Hanabusa said. "For business, recreation, and the simple goal of maintaining contact with family around the state, we need affordable, reliable air travel to live our day-to-day lives. In addition, Hawaii's visitor industry, still the largest contributor to our state's economy, is entirely dependent on air transportation. Preserving the EAS exemption for Hawaii air travel reflects our communities' unique needs.
"This provision would affect air service at the Waimea-Kohala Airport and fifteen airports in Alaska. For residents of these and surrounding communities, this amendment protects a vital link. I want to thank Rep. Don Young of Alaska for his leadership in helping move this critical amendment forward, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for her support."