A Kenmore Air plane lands in Port Angeles. —Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

Kenmore Air rethinking Port Angeles-Seattle service after already making cuts

PORT ANGELES — Kenmore Air will make assessments this fall of its declining service to Port Angeles after cutting flights to Seattle from three to two round trips a day this summer, company President Todd Banks said.

The airline, headquartered north of Seattle on Lake Washington, provides the North Olympic Peninsula’s only commercial passenger service, flying between the Port of Port Angeles’ William R. Fairchild International Airport and Boeing Field in Seattle.

From there, the company provides free shuttle service to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

How certain is Banks that passenger service to and from Fairchild will continue beyond Jan. 1?

“We’ve got concerns about it,” Banks said Friday, adding that flights “probably” will continue.

“I need — we need — to make smart business decisions,” he said.

“We’ll be evaluating things in the fall.”

Banks said he is not sure whether reducing service to one round trip a day is a viable option.

“We always have tried to be thoughtful on behalf of our customers,” he said.

“We are trying to find out what their needs are.”

The company cut daily trips from three to two June 27.

The company’s website shows flights leaving from Fairchild to Boeing Field from June 27 to Oct. 10 at 5:30 a.m. and 12:55 p.m., and from Oct. 11 through Dec. 31 at 5:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

“We’ve had markets that had higher demand, so we just kind of had to reshuffle the airplanes around to respond to customer needs in other market,” Banks said.

He cited Kenmore’s new service to Nanaimo, B.C., which began March 3, and robust, renewed demand for flights to the San Juan Islands.

“From our standpoint, it seems like things are a little softer in Clallam.”

The company began serving the Peninsula in 2004 after taking over from Harbor Air, which had concluded the route was not profitable.

At one time, Kenmore operated six round trips daily. That was cut to five, and then — on June 1, 2011 — to three.

Since the last flight reduction, the company has suffered 37 straight months of declining enplanements-deplanements — boardings and departures combined — at Fairchild compared with the same month the previous year.

For example, there were 782 boardings and departures in June compared with 869 in June 2013 and 1,280 in June 2011 — the first month flights were reduced to three.

A 23 percent drop in 2011 triggered the loss of a $1 million Federal Aviation Administration entitlement grant.

The 500 flights in January were the lowest of any month since 2009.

The reduction in service is frustrating for Peninsula residents who need quick on-and-off access, port commission President Jim Hallett said Friday.

Hallett, a financial adviser, said he flies about six times a year out of Fairchild.

“Down to two flights a day is like it’s akin to life support, so to speak,” he said.

“In my professional opinion, it’s not enough to meet the needs of the public.”

Kenmore rents space at the airport terminal. The port has waived landing fees, Jerry Ludke, the port’s airport and marina manager, said Friday.

The company has leased space in the airport terminal on a month-to-month basis since 2004, port Property Manager Tanya Kerr said.

“We would be willing to work with them to help them out any way we could.”

The company, which pays $725 a month, can terminate the lease with 30 days’ notice.

Hallett said the port has done its best to keep Kenmore flying out of Port Angeles.

“They are looking at it from a business perspective,” he said.

“If I were running an airline, I would want to know I had a certain number of people [flying].”

The company did not notify the port of its decision, Ludke said, adding that as airport manager, he would have expected a call.

“I found out by being at the airport and talking to the folks at the desk up there,” Ludke said.

Banks said Kenmore staff did not know the current airport management and board of commissioners as well as people previously in those positions.

“We talked to our staff about it,” Banks said.

“We called everyone impacted by the change.”

Ludke said he has had difficulty reaching company officials.

Hallett said port commissioners have asked company officials to meet with the board at a commissioners meeting or with port staff to discuss the company’s operations at Fairchild.

“I don’t know what else the commission can do at this point,” he said.

Banks said there are no plans to meet with port officials.

“If there was an invitation or request to come, we would certainly honor that,” he said.

“We are always open to discussing things.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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