J.D. Tuccille has a terrific article over at Reason that illustrates the lunacy of government subsidies mixing with madcap regulatory excess. Flying into Los Angeles on a small commuter shuttle, Tuccille couldn’t help noticing that half the seats on the damn plane had been ripped out.
That’s because the flight was part of a heavily regulated, heavily subsidized program called Essential Air Service, which basically forces airlines to provide travel routes that don’t make economic sense. This particular airfield gets over $2 million a year in taxpayer subsidies. Of course, the vast majority of people paying the subsidy will never take a single flight on the service they’re paying for. Heck, the vast majority of them will never set foot in California.
So why rip 10 seats out of a 19-seat commuter plane? Well, it’s because the Federal Aviation Administration put forth some stiff pilot qualifications last year, requiring a huge amount of flight time for pilots who operate these little turboprop shuttles. The regulations don’t apply to aircraft with fewer than ten seats.
I know what you’re thinking: No, no, no way, they can’t just be yanking chairs out of a 19-seat airplane until only 9 seats are left, to comply with that regulation. But oh yes, that’s exactly what they’re doing. And it works, or else the FAA would have put a stop to it a long time ago. Same plane + same pilot, minus 10 seats in the passenger compartment = COMPLIANCE!
This would be lunacy outside the sheltering cocoon of taxpayer subsidization, because passenger planes that can only be half-filled by definition can’t turn a profit. But within the embrace of Big Government, all things are possible, and the consequences fall upon taxpayers who have no idea how badly they’re getting ripped off.