Commercial air service to Mason City and Fort Dodge will be saved through the actions of the U-S Department of Transportation. Last fall, Northwest Airlines filed to suspend air service to the communities, triggering a request for federal funding from the Essential Air Service program. Mason City Municipal Airport manager Duane Haataja says action could not be taken until Congress okayed spending more money on the program.The funds provide subsidies for airlines operating into smaller markets that otherwise would not have air service. Last year Congress only appropriated 50-million dollars to fund the E-A-S program. Haataja believes that figure needs to be higher.Haataja says the D-O-T is taking the next step now that Congress has appropriated the money. E-A-S rules require the D-O-T to submit notices to all airlines so they have an opportunity to submit a proposal for service. Haataja says up to this point, everything has been running the same and will be continuing that way until the end of January. Airline proposals are due to the D-O-T by January 20th. The agency has until January 31st to select an airline to provide service to Mason City and Fort Dodge, and to determine the amount of subsidy that airline would get.
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