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Congress Limits Long Distance EAS Routes

With the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 comes a new rule for the EAS program, which places limits on certain subsidized routes.

Sun Country Boeing 737s sitting at its main base in Minneapolis/St. Paul (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

In the recently passed FAA Reauthorization Act, Congress added some new rules that affect the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, including limits on certain routes and how airlines can reduce or limit service. 

There is one new requirement for EAS routes that will affect one airline specifically. A new rule will place limits on EAS-funded routes over 650 miles, with exceptions in Alaska due to the vast distance between cities.

This new 650-mile rule will greatly affect Sun Country’s longer EAS flights out of Eau Claire, Wis. to cities like Fort Meyers, Orlando, and Las Vegas, the shortest of which is just over 1,260 mile, almost double the new rule.

Sun Country 737-800 in the EAS community of Eau Claire, Wis. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

While the bill passed in May, Sun Country had already been selected prior to the new rules becoming law, so its EAS contract for Eau Claire gets grandfathered in until the next bid in September of 2028. 

Impacts For Breeze

Breeze, on the other hand, is not grandfathered in, and the limits do affect one of the contracts for which it has already submitted. The airline has submitted bids for the EAS community of Ogdensburg, N.Y., with proposed flights to Washington Dulles as well as to Florida. The route to Washington is within the 650-mile range, but Florida would be outside of it. 

The terminal building in Ogdensburg, N.Y. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

And since the contract hasn’t been awarded yet, it likely does not get grandfathered in like Sun Country. 

There are a couple of routes in the lower 48 that do come close to the 650-mile rule, but don’t go over, including Contour’s Macon, Ga. to Baltimore-Washington flight which comes in at 594 miles. But, the closest without going over is Advanced Air’s route from Crescent City, Calif. to its base in Hawthorne, Calif. which sits at 630 miles, just 20 miles short of the new rule.

Pulling up to the terminal in Crescent City (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

One can only assume this new rule is put in place to keep the EAS program true to its one core purpose: connecting those smaller communities through an airline hub to the global flight network.

Longer routes like Sun Country’s flights from Eau Claire and Breeze’s proposed flights out of Ogdensburg might be good for enplanement numbers at the small communities, but it isn’t always helpful for those people that need to fly to anywhere other than Florida or Las Vegas.

Joey Gerardi
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  • Joey Gerardi

    Joe has always been interested in planes, for as long as he can remember. He grew up in Central New York during the early 2000s when US Airways Express turboprops ruled the skies. Being from a non-aviation family made it harder for him to be around planes and would only spend about three hours a month at the airport. He was so excited when he could drive by himself and the first thing he did with the license was get ice cream and go plane spotting for the entire day. When he has the time (and money) he likes to take spotting trips to any location worth a visit. He’s currently enrolled at Western Michigan University earning a degree in Aviation Management and Operations.

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