The curse of Kahn


Cogan Station

How did the situation at the Williamsport Regional Airport become so bad? It’s not due to the terminal that greets passengers. The terminal is an outstanding example of such buildings. In fact, it’s certainly suitable for much busier airports.

I think the problem started in the early 1970s. Alfred E. Kahn, then chairman of the Civil Aviation Board, spent years pushing for deregulation of airlines. He gave all the usual free market reasons. And, in 1979, he succeeded.

So, what changed?

Well, prior to deregulation, the government said to airlines, “You have to serve less traveled routes and destinations and use some of the money from your profitable routes to subsidize the cost of the less traveled routes.”

That way rural areas had access to the services more populated areas enjoyed.

In the years after deregulation, airlines shifted service to their more profitable routes. If a rural area could show it was profitable to serve, State College for example, airlines were happy to continue service.

If not, tough luck.

Recently, local elected officials said that Harrisburg should do more to support rural airports. I see that as a way of saying more regulations on airlines are needed to support our airport. I certainly agree.


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