Tester, Moran Lead Bipartisan Bill to Enhance Air Service in Rural Communities

Senators’ bipartisan Small Community Air Service Enhancement Act will reauthorize Small Community Air Service Development Program, lower costs for consumers

As part of his continued efforts to lower costs for Montanans and expand access to reliable air service for rural communities, U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kans.) today introduced their bipartisan Small Community Air Service Enhancement Act to increase flight options for travelers in rural America.

“Expanding reliable air service is essential for Montana so we can lower flight costs, create jobs, and keep families connected across our state,” said Tester. “That’s why I’m teaming up with Senator Moran to reauthorize the Small Community Air Service Development Program, which helps our rural airports offer more flights and will support travel and commerce in Montana for years to come.”

“Every flight counts in small communities with limited access to air travel, where each flight can have a significant impact on drawing new businesses and families to a region,” said Sen. Moran. “Strengthening the Small Community Air Service Development Program will help small airports attract commercial flights increasing connectivity across the state of Kansas.”

“We greatly appreciate Senator Tester championing this bill to help expand the Small Community Air Service Development Grant Program,” said Helena Regional Airport Director Jeff Wadekamper.  “Airports have limited tools available to mitigate the financial risks an airline incurs when adding new service to a community, which makes this program a very important component of air service recruitment and development.”

“The Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP) is highly important to maintaining and developing small community air service, which has been under increased pressure during the pandemic and pilot shortage,” said Great Falls International Airport Director John Faulkner. “Great Falls International Airport has successfully created new air service opportunities for our community through the SCASDP. We believe expanding SCASDP is vital to sustaining robust and affordable air service in our smaller communities and we thank Senator Tester for his leadership on this issue.”

“Unfortunately, the global pandemic accelerated air service losses in small and rural communities throughout America,” said Kevin BurkeAirports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) President and CEO. “Airports appreciate Senators Moran and Tester leading this effort to give those communities most impacted by air service challenges another opportunity to showcase their vitality and viability to airlines and travelers alike.”  

“We’re grateful to Senators Moran and Tester for their continued leadership in helping airports and communities attract and maintain air service,” said Todd Hauptli, American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) President and CEO. “Enhancing the Small Community Air Service Development Program is an important element in helping ensure that travelers in underserved areas have continued access to the nation’s air transportation system.”

The Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP) was designed to allow small airports to compete for grants to attract air carrier service to their communities. Tester and Moran’s bipartisan legislation, the Small Community Air Service Enhancement Act, will improve the SCASDP by increasing available funding for this competitive program, and ensuring airports who have experienced a significant reduction in air service are prioritized for selection.  

Tester has led the charge to upgrade Montana’s airport infrastructure. This past year he secured approximately $144 million for 69 Montana airports through his bipartisan infrastructure law, which will be awarded over five years through the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Improvement Grants, which can be used to construct or repair runways and taxiways as well as make terminal and gate improvements.

Tester worked across the aisle for months to negotiate the IIJA with a group of five Republicans, four Democrats, and the White House. Tester’s law is projected to create more than 800,000 American jobs and lower costs for businesses by making targeted investments that will strengthen our nation without raising taxes on working families.