Cranky Flier likes the federal government’s Small Community Air Service Development grant program.
He outlined this year’s winners that he liked on Monday, and I explained why the best of the best is proof enough why the program isn’t worth it.
This morning he looks at what he considers to be successes from last year’s program.
And of the 29 winners from 2011, he can find four.
South Bend, Indiana wanted low cost carrier service to Denver. It took awhile, but Frontier will begin service in October.
Grand Forks, North Dakota wanted Denver as well, and it will be getting service on United that same month.
Bozeman, Montana wanted a New York flight. It got it with Saturday-only service this summer on United.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania wanted a Denver flight like the others and it might be the biggest success. Frontier delivered with a summer seasonal flight and it did well enough for the airline to extend it by a couple of months through the end of October.
It seems like a pretty low standard for success, though, to say that an airport that wanted service got that service (and a lower standard still when it’s seasonal or once weekly service).
The relevant question is whether the airport getting that service is worth the investment.
These things have to be judged on an opportunity cost basis. How big a benefit relative to the alternatives are provided, and how does that compare to what would have otherwise happened to the money?
- In private hands (money wasn’t taken away from those who earned it)
- Reducing debt (government finances are a train wreck, should we be spending money to encourage Saturday service between Bozeman and New York?)
- Other investments of those dollars (surely there are more important government functions than subsidizing Bozeman-New York air service, people flying between those cities might be expected to pony up for it themselves, or connect…?)
Rather than focusing on the silly applications that didn’t get funded, or the worst applications that did, I think it’s fair to highlight the ‘very best’ and ‘most successful’ grants and ask whether the program seems worthwhile — including the cost of the grants themselves, the government’s cost to administer the programs, and the local governments’ costs trying to attract those grants.