Chris Dupin, chief financial officer for Zephyr Air, center left, talks with North Olympic Peninsula business leaders next to a Piper PA-46 Malibu aircraft belonging to the airline during a promotional visit to William R. Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles in February. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Chris Dupin, chief financial officer for Zephyr Air, center left, talks with North Olympic Peninsula business leaders next to a Piper PA-46 Malibu aircraft belonging to the airline during a promotional visit to William R. Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles in February. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Port of Port Angeles in talks with new airline; Zephyr proposal still on table

PORT ANGELES — The Port of Port Angeles is in talks with another airline now in its effort to secure commercial passenger air service from Port Angeles to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, said John Nutter, director of finance and administration for the port.

Port officials have been in talks with Zephyr Air, which last month publicly proposed flights from Fairchild International Airport to both Boeing Field and Sea-Tac International Airport.

Nutter said Tuesday he couldn’t name the latest airline under consideration — the 13th airline since Kenmore Air left in November 2014 — but said the port plans to release more information today.

“We are diligently working at acquiring air service for the greater Port Angeles area,” he said. “Our search for commercial airline service is continuing.”

Port officials contacted the new, unnamed airline within the past two weeks, he said.

“[Zephyr] hasn’t been counted out, nor have they provided an updated proposal after meeting with business leaders,” Nutter said.

He said since Zephyr’s presentation last month, it has pulled back on its proposal.

What Zephyr Air proposed could put the port at risk of losing its $200,000 Small Community Air Service Development Program grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Nutter said last week.

Jack Permison, Zephyr’s president, said Tuesday the airline has no comment at this time.

“When we’re ready to talk, we’ll reach out,” he said.

What Zephyr proposed originally “would be a significant change of scope” for the grant, Nutter said. The port was awarded the grant based on a proposal for daily service to Sea-Tac with nine-seat caravans.

Zephyr proposed non-daily flights to and from Boeing Field and Sea-Tac in a six-seater PA-46 Malibu aircraft that could hold five passengers and luggage. Tickets would be $160 one way.

When applying for the grant, the port said it was looking for an airline that would provide four or five round trips daily to Sea-Tac in a nine-seat caravan.

“Zephyr has indicated they want to be very conservative and not start off with four to five round trips a day,” said Jerry Ludke, airport and marina manager for the port.

The port has hoped to use the grant to make up the difference of any losses of up to $200,000 under a passenger airline’s projected minimum revenue.

But federal Transportation officials told the port it would likely need to change the scope of its grant application to fit Zephyr’s proposals and reapply for the grant, Nutter said.

“The danger to that is if they were to decide ‘no,’ we could never apply again,” Nutter said.

It’s a one-time grant, he said. If the grant application were denied, the port would not be allowed to ever apply again for any locations included in the applications.

Zephyr’s proposal includes service to Sea-Tac and Boeing Field.

Even if a new grant were approved, Transportation could reduce the dollar amount, Nutter said.

“We have not officially asked them to redo the grant application,” he said. “We’re waiting on more info.”

Nutter said at this point, he has more questions than answers for the airline. He said it isn’t clear to the port what exactly Zephyr’s proposal is now.

Ludke said the port needs to use the grant by 2020 but believes the deadline can be extended.

He also said the federal government could pull the grant in September but doesn’t believe it would.

“They really want to see some progress in getting an airline on board,” Ludke said Tuesday.

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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