Federal tax dollars helping fund flights from Macon to D.C.

Federal tax dollars funding DC flights

Betsy Fitzgerald says packing a bag and hopping on a plane to D.C. is not uncommon.

“I actually go see a medical specialist up at Johns Hopkins Hospital several times a year. It's very important for my health to go there,” says Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald, a harpist who used to manage Macon's Grand Opera House, says she suffers from a rare nerve disease.

She says she risks harming her body to get to one of her doctors.

“The more I sit in a car, the more I have to sit in an airport [it] makes me get more jagged in my walking and shaky in a sense and that makes me at risk for falling. I don’t like that,” says Fitzgerald.

She says flying to D.C. out of Macon could benefit her health and help reduce costs.

But Fitzgerald is not the only one expecting benefits from the new flights.

Contour Airlines is getting more than $9.3 million in federal subsidies to run flights from Macon to D.C. for the next two years. It is all a part of the Federal Essential Air Service Subsidy Program. It aims to bring air services to cities that are underserved.

In their agreement with Bibb County, Contour predicts about 13 passengers per flight. That means the subsidy would come out to about $283 per ticket. A number Bibb Commissioner Gary Bechtel says is not shocking.

According to the FAA's website, most of the money comes from taxes and fees the agency collects on other plane tickets.

“A lot of it is being paid for by the traveling public in hopes that the FAA will do what they do to promote routes,” says Bechtel.

Bechtel describes himself as conservative on funding, but he does not oppose the program. He says the federal government will spend that money whether or not there are flights from Macon.

“If they didn’t choose to come to Bibb County, they may choose to go to Valdosta. They may choose to go to Troy, Alabama,” says Bechtel.

If it could help bring people to town, Fitzgerald says people should look at it a local investment of federal dollars.

“And having a working airport that gives you flights to places where people need to get to is extremely important,” says Fitzgerald.

If you are interested in purchasing a ticket to D.C., click this link

© 2017 WMAZ-TV


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