PIT bribes yet another airline

PIT bribes yet another airline

Here we go again: The Post-Gazette reports that the Allegheny County Airport Authority is giving Breeze Airways about $560,000 in “incentives” to fly to four cities from Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT).

But the public subsidy-collecting Breeze already appears to be in trouble.

First, some background, as the P-G’s Mark Belko reports:

“Breeze started service from the airport to Charleston, S.C.; Hartford, Conn.; Providence, R.I.; and Norfolk, Va., last month.

“The new airline, based in Salt Lake City, just received the first $140,000 of the half-million-dollar subsidy under its arrangement with the authority.

“Breeze gets a quarter of the subsidy 30 days after launching each of its flights. The first to Charleston started July 8, meaning the authority just made the first incentive payment.

“The carrier will get the rest of the payments by the end of August for the flights to Hartford, Providence and Norfolk because two started July 29 and the other July 30.

“According to the authority, the $560,000 incentive package, signed last month but just released, includes all reimbursable marketing funds for the four markets.”

But, the P-G also reports, Breeze already has cut, from four to two days a week, its Charleston and Norfolk flights from Pittsburgh. And, according to the Charleston Business Journal, it already has cut 33 percent of its routes systemwide.

The Airport Authority defends its latest public subsidy to an airline – no less than a “public purpose” bribe — as being lower or in line with what other cities/regions have ponied up.

But that doesn’t make it right.

And, make no mistake, Breeze has wrangled millions of dollars out of government jurisdictions throughout its service area. Many of those subsidies are defended as being performance-based.

But if it meets performance goals, why does it require subsidies?

At PIT, the Airport Authority further defends public subsidies to airlines as being a grand economic generator. It claims the Breeze flights at PIT alone “could generate $39 million a year in direct, indirect and induced economic impact,” the P-G says.

Do say!

Pardon us if we are skeptics of any government-commissioned economic impact studies; they are infamous for overstating “impacts” to gloss over the imprudent and improper public subsidies to private enterprises.

Think of the economic impact claims that the authority touted in throwing millions of dollars at British Airways. Its flights since have been suspended, with no re-start date and possibly none to come. Those “impacts” were thoroughly disemboweled by Jake Haulk, the president-emeritus of the Allegheny Institute.

And think of the number of airlines at PIT that were handed subsidies only to move on when the money ran out.

And lest we forget, the cluster cluck of all cluster clucks — the now-defunct OneJet, which stiffed the Airport Authority for $763,000 of a $1 million subsidy. It was a deal so full of authority board conflicts of interest that it would be funny if it hadn’t been so rotten.

Back to the Breeze subsidy.

Brian Dietz, the Airport Authority’s senior vice president for air service and commercial development, claims to the P-G that “Breeze’s arrival highlights the strength in our market, and we see a lot of opportunities for them to grow and succeed here.”

Sorry, but if the PIT air travel market is so doggone strong, why did the Airport Authority have to bribe Breeze (and others before it) to fly here?

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).