Dash Air to leave Port Angeles

‘Nothing to do’ with viability of air service, owner says

PORT ANGELES — Dash Air Shuttle will shut down its operations and exit the Port Angeles market by the end of the month.

The move comes without the company having made a single commercial flight out of William R. Fairchild International Airport.

Dash Air President Clint Ostler said Friday the startup had worked persistently over the past 3½ years to make its commercial air service a reality, but in the end, he decided to pull the plug on the venture.

“It has nothing to do with the viability of a market in Port Angeles,” Ostler said. “At some point, another airline operator is going to see the same opportunity that we did and hopefully make it work for them.”

Re-establishing and maintaining scheduled air service from Fairchild to Seattle has been a Port of Port Angeles priority since Kenmore Air ended flights to Boeing Field in 2014. It has been a part of the port’s strategic plan since 2016.

“I know that Dash did all they could to provide scheduled service in and out of Port Angeles and, unfortunately, the barriers were too great,” Port Commissioner Connie Beauvais said. “Hopefully with the growth of new and expanding businesses on the Peninsula, we’ll be able to support air service in the near future.”

Dash Air was not an airline but a marketing and ticketing agent for Backcounty Aviation of Albany, Ore., which employed the pilots who operated the aircraft.

Dash Air’s three part-time customer service employees in Port Angeles and one full-time employee in Seattle will lose their jobs.

A complaint lodged in 2022 by Kenmore with the Federal Aviation Administration against Dash Air for its pursuit of intrastate certification was a significant factor in its inability to move forward with its planned air service, Ostler said.

“It set us back a year, and that’s a year of cash burn, a year of waiting for the [U.S. Department of Transportation], a year of making sure we were doing everything legally and by the book,” Ostler said.

Kenmore had provided scheduled air service to Port Angeles between 2004 and 2014, citing a decline in the number of passengers when it withdrew.

“We tried a number of times to get Kenmore over here and they said they could not make it pencil out for them,” Beauvais said. “So for them to throw up that kind of wall on somebody who wanted to come in and provide that service was disappointing.”

Earlier this year, Dash Air dropped its efforts to obtain intrastate certification and attempted to seek certification as a public air charter instead. However, Ostler said, it could only raise about one-third of the $200,000 needed to obtain the surety bond required by the DOT.

“We’ve been trying for three or four months now to partner with the several local businesses to try to raise those funds, but ultimately, we weren’t able to do it,” Ostler said.

Dash Air first announced its plans to begin regularly scheduled air service between Port Angeles and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in April 2021. Ostler said at the time the goal was to be operational by that July or early August.

But over the next three years, the takeoff date was continuously pushed back as Dash Air encountered a series of roadblocks: the Kenmore Air complaint, a dispute over the Dash Air name, problems obtaining FAA operating certification for its planes and, lastly, raising cash for DOT economic certification.

In fall 2023, Dash Air told the port it would start offering private charter services until its scheduled flight operations were viable. Previously, it had changed its proposed flight service to Seattle from Sea-Tac to Boeing Field. It released flight schedules and fares, promoted reservations on its website and sold T-shirts.

In its two-year lease agreement with Dash Air, the port waived $2,200 a month in rent and landing feeds, as well as a financial security deposit. When that lease expired in January, the port revised the terms because Dash Air was offering charter flights rather than the commercial air service it had promised.

Under the new month-to-month lease, Dash Air paid $339.49 a month and landing fees. It was also required to pay a $105 security deposit.

Dash Air never tapped into a $333,000 minimum revenue guarantee it obtained from the port because it didn’t end up providing any air service.

The port renewed the $200,000 Small Community Air Service Development Program grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation and would continue to provide a $133,000 match so it could continue to offer a minimum revenue guarantee to another airline, said Paul Jarkiewicz, the port’s executive director.

However, that airline must offer flights between Port Angeles and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, not Boeing Field.

“It’s not without a lot of sadness that we heard the news, and it’s unfortunate because I think Clint really tried,” Jarkiewicz said. “The next step is to go ahead and try to get somebody [else].”

Beauvais said the port is open to hearing from companies that are prepared to offer flight services.

“All we can do is say, ‘Hey, we are available if you can make it pencil out for yourself,’” Beauvais said. “Our doors are always open.”

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached by email at paula.hunt@peninsuladailynews.com.

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