Editorials

Redefining cheap flights out of MidAmerica

Taxpayers subsidized MidAmerica St. Louis Airport with $7.5 million last year and county leaders obligated them to another 30 years and $48 million by refinancing bonds used to build it.
Taxpayers subsidized MidAmerica St. Louis Airport with $7.5 million last year and county leaders obligated them to another 30 years and $48 million by refinancing bonds used to build it. News-Democrat

On the heels of the new flights to Las Vegas, Allegiant Airlines announced that on Feb. 18 they will begin service to Fort Myers, Fla. That means you will soon be able to get to Vegas plus three Florida destinations from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport.

Good for Allegiant. Good for folks wanting to go to Fort Myers. Good for airport director Tim Cantwell pushing that cause.

“It appears Allegiant is helping MidAmerica become the Midwest gateway to sunshine,” St. Clair County Public Building Commissioner Jim Nations effused.

Gateway to sunshine? Seems more like county leaders are using MidAmerica to pump sunshine here, with conduit extending up taxpayers’ skirts.

Commissioners were told there were 31,430 arrivals and departures last year. They are expecting nearly 60,000 this year and maybe 90,000 next year. Cut those numbers in half to get the round-trip passengers.

Some significant growth on the flight path to success, right? It is if you don’t look too closely and factor in the free landings, $30,000 per route for marketing, $7.5 million involuntary contribution from St. Clair County taxpayers each year plus the additional $48 million in debt from extending the airport bonds another 30 years.

So those $52 one-way fares to Fort Myers actually cost an additional $153. If you get a cheap flight, you should probably go thank your neighbors for the dollars they put in.

Since it opened in 1998, MidAmerica has been about passenger service, then cargo, then saving Scott Air Force Base and now passengers and sunshine again. Scott may have benefited, but there are good reasons more local governments don’t run airports: The equation doesn’t work.

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