The U.S. Department of Transportation unveiled a plan on April 29 to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on air carriers participating in the Essential Air Service or EAS program – issuing a notice to all EAS air carriers indicating how they may adjust their schedules and seek compensation due to the fiscal impact of significant reduction in passenger demand.
[Above photo by the Arizona DOT.]
The agency noted in a statement that its plan – retroactive to March 1 and in effect until June 30 – authorizes payment of 50 percent of the contracted per-flight subsidy for flights that are not operated, so long as an EAS air carrier serving a community in the continental United States, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico completes at least one round trip flight a day, six days a week, for that EAS community.
Separately, an EAS air carrier serving a community in Alaska needs to complete at least 50 percent of its weekly schedule for that EAS community, the USDOT said. However, the agency stressed that this plan does not apply to eight communities receiving Alternate EAS grants.
Additionally, as part of its EAS plan, the USDOT emphasized it will not initiate enforcement action against EAS air carriers in these certain situations: failing to comply with the statutory level-of-service requirements in situations where the noncompliance takes place during the effective period of the notice; the significant reduction in passenger demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic caused of the noncompliance; the EAS air carrier complies with the level-of-service requirements provided in the notice and eligible communities do not object to the change in service levels.