PORT ANGELES — Dash Air has requested additional time to respond to a complaint of “unfair and deceptive business practices” filed by Kenmore Air, while a coalition of area agencies announced Tuesday they plan to stand up for the company that aims to provide the first passenger air service from Port Angeles since 2014.
The Port of Port Angeles had sought a carrier to operate between the Fairchild and Seattle-Tacoma international airports since Kenmore Air stopped the service in 2014. Dash Air had begun selling tickets for flights expected to begin Thursday.
But Dash Air had to refund money and change schedules when Kenmore Air filed a 96-page complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation on July 20.
On Aug. 3, it filed a request for a 15-day extension to respond to the Kenmore complaint. The original deadline for the response was Aug. 4.
Marc Abshire, executive director of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce, wrote a scathing public letter dated July 27, accusing Kenmore Air of being a deceitful company, believing that Kenmore issued its complaint in an attempt to damage Dash Air and claiming that the company abandoned Port Angeles due to its inability/unwillingness to manage its services.
“The Kenmore Air Harbor, LLC (Kenmore) complaint is vague, misleading, deceptive, and self-contradictory,” said the letter, which Abshire said was written on behalf of the chamber’s board.
“In addition, the complaint was filed with timing clearly intended to imperil (and effectually delay) the launch of a returned air service between the main Port Angeles (CLM) and Seattle (SEA) airports. Kenmore’s requests for a cease and desist order and a fine against Dash should be immediately denied and the complaint should be dismissed with prejudice,” reads the letter from the chamber.
On Tuesday, the Port Angeles Business Association (PABA) joined the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce in condemning the complaint by Kenmore Air and issuing a list of comments to the federal agency in response to the complaint and in support of Dash Air.
“We agree with and make reference to comments forwarded to you by the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce,” said PABA President Jim McEntire. “This complaint is a specious attempt to harm a business which it isn’t in competition with, by an airline which, until November 2014, served the air transportation Market between Port Angeles and central Puget Sound.”
Kenmore’s complaint charged that Dash Air was “openly proposing to operate interstate scheduled air service without having been found fit by the Department of Transportation, in violation of 49 USC 41102 and 14 CFR 201.”
Said Hank Myers, a consultant for Kenmore Air: “Dash Air has advertised itself as if it were an air carrier. Now, along the way, they (Dash Air) have said they are just a booking agent that would be hiring an air carrier, which is Back Country Aviation. But neither Dash Air nor Back Country Aviation has the authority from the Federal Aviation Administration or Department of Transportation to provide scheduled passenger service between Fairchild International Airport and Sea-Tac,” Myers said.
Kenmore Air asserts that there would be no immediate impact on the air carrier should Dash Air become operational.
“At least not in the immediate future, but as one of the exhibits shows in the complaint, Dash has proposed, after it gets its federal subsidy, to expand its operations, some of which parallel Kenmore,” Myers said.
Clint Ostler, president of Dash Air, said those claims are baseless.
“Dash Air Shuttle … maintains that there is precedent for the Department of Transportation to dismiss these claims. We have support from the FAA and are following all necessary requirements to ensure proper certification,” Ostler said.
The complaint also claimed that Dash Air is an unfit competitor to Kenmore and other regional small air carriers, to which Kenmore Chief Operations Officer David Gudgel was quick to say that Dash Air is not a competitor at the moment, but it would be a welcome one.
“First, Dash Air is not a competitor of Kenmore’s, although if it gets federal subsidy support, its proposed routes would be competitive. Competition by qualified competitors operating under the appropriate rules is great,” Gudgel said.
“We operated in Port Angeles until 2014. We are not taking issue with Dash Air as a competitor in this market. Our issue is with a local air carrier reporting to be something that they’re not,” Gudgel said.
“Our issue is not with the market. It’s with the carrier,” Gudgel said.
Gudgel responded to the criticism as well as other comments made online.
“We had these concerns with Dash Air a year ago, and we presented these same issues that were in the complaint to Dash Air at that time and received no response,” he said.
“When we saw that they were beginning to take bookings, it triggered our concern that none of the issues we had addressed with them appeared to have been addressed, and there was certainly no response from them on the issues we raised. The timing of this is not simply the last couple of weeks but an ongoing issue,” Gudgel said.
Ostler said that Dash Air had received a message from Myers addressing the issues outlined in the complaint and that he responded to it.
“We did receive an email inquiry from Hank (not in an official capacity of Kenmore Air) in November … While Hank is not a lawyer, and thus we are not required to respond, as a courtesy, I did respond via email to his concerns related to our operation,” Ostler said.
Kenmore departed Port Angeles in 2014, stating there was not enough demand for the business at the time.
“The level of business did not support the operation, so we weren’t able to obtain the passenger accounts at the rates that we needed in order to move back into operation,” Gudgel said.
However, the company had not abandoned the possibility of returning to Port Angeles.
“We leave all of our options open,” Gudgel said.
“We recently expanded our options to Paine Field for flights to the San Juans. So we are always looking at new markets, but we do not have plans at this point to return to Port Angeles,” Gudgel said.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].