Congressman Vargas Fights to Keep Imperial County Airport Operating

Imperial, California - Today, the Department of Transportation announced that the Imperial County Airport is on a list of airports potentially losing federal support under the Essential Air Service (EAS) program.  In 2012, President Obama signed the “Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act,” which requires subsidized communities to maintain an average of ten passenger enplanements per service day in order to remain in the EAS program. 

For the first time in five years, the Imperial County Airport has fallen below the ten enplanement threshold, by reaching 9.5 enplanements.

“The people of the Imperial Valley have already sacrificed enough and should not be subjected to yet another round of government cuts.  The function of the government is to protect its people, not condemn an already economically struggling community to even more financial hardship,” said Congressman Vargas.  “For the past 5 years, the Imperial County Airport has dramatically exceeded the enplanement minimum.  It is completely unjust that this airport be targeted for removal from the program because of a single slow year.”

The Essential Air Service was put into place to guarantee that small communities, such as the Imperial Valley, continue to be served by certificated air carriers.  This is accomplished by subsidizing two to four round trips a day to major hubs, with three being the norm.  The Department of Transportation currently subsidizes commuter airlines to serve approximately 163 rural communities across the country that otherwise would not receive any scheduled air service.

According to the Department of Transportation, the Imperial Valley Airport has been over the minimum enplanement for four of the last five years, with FY 2013 being the first year it went below 10.  Beginning in FY 2009 and ending in FY 2012, the airport logged in 16, 17.7, 20, and 20.7 enplanements, respectively.

“The Imperial Valley Airport has a tremendous track record, clearly showing that it characteristically reaches and surpasses the EAS program requirements put forth by the government,” concluded Congressman Vargas.

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