Assessing geographic coverage of the essential air service program
Essential air service (EAS) is a federally funded program that helps provide commercial air transport service from smaller, geographically remote communities in the United States. While critics of this program frequently cite the underutilization of EAS connections as being an indicator of wasteful public spending, recent studies suggest that the spatial configuration of EAS subsidized airports may also contribute to systemic inefficiencies. The purpose of this paper is to explore the prospects for reducing EAS allocations while meeting existing geographic service needs. The analysis of this public sector service is structured using classic location coverage problems to examine whether there are any system inefficiencies. This enables an objective assessment to be carried out, using spatial optimization modeling approaches. The subsequent analysis provides the basis for a number of public policy insights, including the evaluation of service redundancies, the impact of geographic proximity guidelines and the potential for expanding coverage of the EAS program.
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