The Port of Port Angeles continues to diligently pursue options to re-establish air service in Clallam County. Chief among the concerns are affordable fare prices and reasonably scheduled flights.
Feedback from some of the 13 airlines approached by Port staff in the last two years indicate that there is not high enough demand to generate the revenue necessary to cover the costs of a company that might consider providing service at Fairchild International Airport. Flight overhead costs have gone up dramatically in recent years due in part to a doubling in the cost of aviation fuel and increased pilots’ salaries due to pilot shortages nationwide.
When Kenmore offered $120 one-way fares, it did not cover its costs when there were only four or five passengers per flight, causing it to reduce its schedule, so fewer tickets were sold. The resulting downward spiral made continued service unfeasible.
Another issue is the cessation of major airline subsidizing feeder flights to hubs from smaller airports. Alaska Airlines used to run such a program with Horizon from Fairchild to SeaTac, but that stopped in early 2004.
These challenges confront nearly all rural airports in the nation. Some have qualified for federal Essential Air Service (EAS) funding, which enable smaller airlines to offer much lower fares. The EAS has very strict guidelines, under which the Port is currently ineligible. Port board and staff are in talks with the Washington State federal congressional delegation about legislation to revise the EAS guidelines.
The Port also continues to talk with Zephyr Air and one other airline about air service. Zephyr is currently reevaluating its initial proposal and the Port hopes to review it soon.
“Port staff have been diligently working on this issue, but our options appear limited at best. Further efforts are expected and the Port will request public input before any final decisions are made,” said John Nutter, Director of Finance and Administration. “We welcome all suggestions. Please contact the Port with any ideas that could work here in Port Angeles. We have made finding air service a priority, and finding one that remains viable over the long term is equally important.”