The US towns of Pendleton (Oregon), Alamosa (Colorado), and Watertown, SD have lost their respective bids to retain Essential Air Services (EAS) the Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced.

Earlier this year, the DOT conducted a review of the EAS programme scrutinizing each town's eligibility. Under current regulations, a community must be more than 210 miles (338 kilometres) from the nearest large- or medium-hub airport. In addition, an average of ten or more passengers per day must use the service and the rate of subsidy per passenger must not exceed a USD200 cap.

As such, given their proximity to the 210-mile threshold, all three airports had disputed the Department’s distance calculations - 203 miles, 112 miles, and 207 miles respectively - on the grounds that the DOT should use a location other than the “city center” to measure the distances to the nearest large- or medium-hub airport.

However, the DOT, in its decision, dismissed these petitions arguing that its methodology specifically states that it calculates "the shortest driving distance between an EAS community and a large- or medium-hub airport from the centre of the EAS community to the entrance of the nearest large or medium hub airport as determined by the Federal Highway Administration."

Should waiver applications not be filed, EAS subsidies to all three towns will be terminated with effect from December 31 of this year, the Department added.

Currently, SeaPort Airlines (K5, Portland Int'l, OR) offers regular flights between Pendleton and Portland, Great Lakes Airlines (ZK, Cheyenne) serves Cortez and Denver Int'l from Alamosa, while ADI Aerodynamics (4A, Pontiac) offers scheduled flights to Denver and Pierre from Watertown.