RAA Press

RAA Warns New Department of Agriculture Rule Will Result in Air Service Loss 

Washington, DC, May 7, 2024. Media contact: 

Today, the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published a new rule amending its Agricultural Quarantine and Inspection (AQI) program user fees. Notably, the new rule removes an exemption from the fee for aircraft with less than 64 seats that has protected against harm to air service for decades, effective April 2025. Stripping this exemption is expected to result in a surcharge on carriers, which will make short-range international flights on smaller aircraft unprofitable, in turn causing air service loss to many isolated, smaller communities. 

The Department is removing  the exemption despite its own acknowledgement that it did not perform a proper analysis on the rule’s impact and had no idea how the user fee would impact business, noting in the NPRM: “Because we do not have explicit data on the per-flight revenue, profit margins and competitive landscape affecting international arrivals of commercial aircraft with 64 or fewer seats, we cannot make specific conclusions as to how the collection of this user fee will affect individual businesses.” By moving forward despite these unknowns, the rule disregards congressional direction to the Department of Agriculture in the 2024 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which directed the Department to consider the impact of removing the exemption on small aircraft. 

This new fee is being imposed, despite no evidence of risk; this is particularly egregious when these small air carriers do not transport the agricultural and agricultural related commodities that are subject to inspection in the first place, nor did APHIS provide any examples of “hitchhiking pests” on board small aircraft as justification for ending the exemption. 

RAA President & CEO Faye Malarkey Black urged Congressional action, noting: “We are disappointed the Department of Agriculture has ignored our concerns and pushed forward with a rule that is likely to erode air service on short-haul flights considered ‘international,’ including flights to the Pacific Northwest, Puerto Rico, Florida, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This new rule completely disregards the economic benefits and connectivity offered by regional airlines to these communities and imposes financial harm on these air carriers – many of whom are small businesses. RAA urges Congress to intervene and preserve the exemption for small aircraft before the new fee goes into effect.”

About RAA  

The Regional Airline Association (RAA) provides a unified voice of advocacy for North American regional airlines aimed at promoting a safe, reliable, and strong regional airline industry. RAA serves as an important support network connecting regional airlines and industry business partners. Regional airlines operate 35% of U.S. scheduled passenger flights and provide the only source of scheduled air service to 64% of the nation’s airports. Regional airlines provide more than 70% of the air service in Alabama (72%), Alaska (88%), Arkansas (75%), Maine (72%), North Dakota (87%), South Dakota (75%), Vermont (77%), West Virginia (92%) and Wyoming (73%). Regional airlines provide more than half of the air service in Idaho (70%), Indiana (56%), Iowa (63%), Kansas (69%), Kentucky (58%), Mississippi (68%), Montana (65%), Nebraska (53%), New Hampshire (58%), and Rhode Island (58%). 

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