Airline won’t meet 10,000-passenger minimum this year, Port of Port Angeles forecasts

PORT ANGELES — After a discouraging first quarter, the Port of Port Angeles is predicting that Kenmore Airline will not make the minimum 10,000 passengers boardings at William R. Fairchild International Airport needed by the end of the year.

By the end of April — the end of the first quarter — a total of 2,457 people had boarded Kenmore planes at the airport, bound for Boeing Field in Seattle.

The total compares with 2,785 in the first quarter of 2010.

For all of 2010, the airline barely made the boarding minimum, with 10,183 passengers taking off from Port Angeles.

The 10,000-passenger mark is needed for the airport to maintain its status with the Federal Aviation Administration and potentially receive $1 million in grants each year.

“It doesn’t look very promising right now, and we have a meeting [today] with Kenmore,” port Executive Director Jeff Robb told port commissioners Monday.

If Fairchild loses its airline status, the port must use up the money it has received so far.

“It is a use it or lose it system, so we’ve got to strategize our capital projects,” Robb said.

A “grace period” of one year is currently in the books, but it is unknown whether the federal budget will include that next year, Robb said.

“We have to plan as if it won’t be there,” he said.

Airports and Marinas Manager Doug Sandau said he doesn’t anticipate making the 10,000 mark in 2011.

“I think we probably won’t,” he said.

“But you never know.”

At the meeting today and over the course of the next couple of weeks, Kenmore and the port agency will be discussing a marketing plan to boost the number of people flying to and from Boeing Field, Sandau said.

Kenmore offers ground shuttle service for the 10 miles between Boeing and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

“This is part of the trend we’re seeing, and the economy is part of it,” he said.

“I think if they were able to provide a lower fare that would help — but here again, they are up against it, too.”

In 2010, the airline also saw a drop in passenger levels from the previous year.

Kenmore had 10,183 passengers take off from Port Angeles, and 9,036 passengers arrive in 2010.

That was a decrease of about 27.5 percent from 2009’s figures, in which 24,513 people either took off or arrived.

The Hood Canal Bridge construction closure in May-June 2009 gave the airline a onetime boost in business, port officials have said.

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Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at paige.dickerson@peninsuladailynews.com.

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