CARES Act Minimum Service Rule for Airlines Creates Unintended Disparities

Warwick, RI – April 22, 2020 – The Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) today expressed appreciation to Governor Gina Raimondo and the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation for their efforts to urge the U.S. Department of Transportation to amend its “minimum service” rule which adversely and unfairly impacts T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island. 

RIAC is concerned that Rhode Islanders will be forced to fly from Logan once they come out of COVID-19’s restrictions.  The CARES Act included about $58 billion in loans and grants to bail out struggling U.S. airlines and help airline employees, along with conditions certain conditions, including DOT designated destinations or “points” where airlines receiving taxpayer assistance under the CARES Act must continue to fly.  However, the criteria used by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) considerers Providence part of the Boston metropolitan area despite the significant distance between Logan Airport and many towns across state borders in Rhode Island.  Meanwhile, per the DOT rule, Fall River and Worcester Massachusetts are considered their own separate “points” and are thus able to maintain minimum service requirements despite the fact that they are in the same state as Logan Airport and are considerably closer to Boston than any point in Rhode Island.

“We welcome this joint effort by Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation and Governor to help amend the federal minimum service rule under the CARES Act,” said Iftikhar Ahmad, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation.  “T.F. Green Airport already faces a considerable challenge in what will be multi-year effort to restore pre-pandemic passenger levels. The inequities created by this rule make that already uphill battle all the more difficult.”

On April 9, 2020, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline penned a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao asking her to amend route requirement guidance that would unfairly impact air service at T.F. Green Airport.   Governor Gina Raimondo issued a similar call to the head of the U.S. Department of Transportation two days later.

Both the letter written by the Congressional delegation and Governor urge Secretary Elaine Chao to treat all airports fairly, writing: “We appreciate the challenge DOT faced in creating a rational policy within a matter of days.  However, the one-size-fits-all policy is inherently unfair to T.F. Green, which is still fighting to recover the passenger traffic it lost during the Great Recession.  Given the importance of the airport to the Rhode Island economy and its prospects for recovery, we urge you to amend the order to make T.F. Green its own point.”   

The letter goes on to say: “Rather than creating a group of equals, there is an inherent disparity.  Airlines are likely to find it more efficient to consolidate where they have the heaviest concentration of flights.  Indeed, one airline has already announced that it will cease operations at T.F. Green.  The damage to T.F. Green is compounded because nearby Bradley (BDL) has been designated as its own point with guaranteed service.”

A full copy of the letters from the Rhode Island Congressional delegation and Governor can be found by clicking here

About RIAC: The Rhode Island Airport Corporation was formed on December 9, 1992 as a semi-autonomous subsidiary of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to operate and maintain the state’s airport system. The powers of the corporation are vested in its seven-member board of directors, all of whom are appointed by the governor.  The Rhode Island Airport Corporation is responsible for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the six state-owned airports; and the supervision of all civil airports, landing areas, navigation facilities, air schools and flying clubs. In addition to T. F. Green Airport, the Rhode Island Airport Corporation is responsible for five general aviation airports throughout the state: Block Island, Newport, North Central, Quonset and Westerly. For more information visit RIAC at https://www.pvdairport.com/

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