SAN MIGUEL, El Salvador, Dec. 16, 2008 - ICE Air could be the busiest airline you've never heard of. It serves 30 countries, tickets are free and unlike most carriers, it gives each passenger a complimentary meal. But to secure a flight, you need to be an illegal immigrant.Naturally it's preferable when foreigners self-deport, thereby saving us taxpayers the price of shipment. But all things considered, ICE Air is a fine use of resources ($680 per alien, including reusable cuffs).
ICE is a one-way airline operated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. At a time when most airlines are cutting flights and adding fees for aisle seats, extra luggage and snacks, ICE air is growing by about 10 percent a year.
"We've actually added aircraft to our fleet, and we're actually seeing an increase in the number of aliens being moved around the country and out of the country," said Michael Pitts, the chief of flight operations.
ICE has 22 detention facilities all over the country. When illegal immigrants are caught, they're flown to one of three hubs in Texas, Arizona or Louisiana. From there, ICE Air has daily flights to Central American countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and also frequent flights to Nicaragua, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia and the Caribbean. When it gets enough immigrants to fill a plane, it also flies to Asia, eastern Europe and Africa.