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Audit Initiated of DOT’s Oversight of Unsubsidized Carriers for the Essential Air Service Program

Mandated by the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018
Project ID: 

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 gave airlines freedom to determine which markets to serve and what fares to charge—which resulted in lower fares, the expansion of the regional airline industry, and increased flight choices for many Americans. However, small communities were concerned that they would lose air service as airlines shifted operations to larger, potentially more lucrative markets. To address these concerns, Congress established the Essential Air Service (EAS) program—administered by the Department of Transportation (DOT)—to ensure small communities receive continuous air service. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 mandated our office to assess the service provided by unsubsidized carriers—which serve EAS communities without subsidies from DOT—and determine whether the Department conducts oversight of the carriers to ensure air service quality and community satisfaction. Accordingly, our audit objectives are to evaluate DOT’s (1) authorization of unsubsidized air carriers for small communities and (2) oversight of the services provided by those air carriers.