SeaPort Airlines, the company that owns Wings of Alaska announced late yesterday that Wings was sold to Gustavus-based Fjord Flying Services.
The rumors have been flying for weeks about the sale of Wings, the airline that serves Southeast communities including Haines and Skagway. Portland-based SeaPort Airlines, emailed a press release that says it sold Wings to “help facilitate expansion by Fjord in many Wings of Alaska markets.” The sale was finalized on Oct. 10.
Fjord owner Richard Cole says that while there may be a few hiccups for the few weeks, service between Haines, Skagway and Juneau will not be interrupted. He says the deal has been in the works for a few months.
“There might be a brief reduction in service, but it’s our expectation that that will be very short term. We expect to have roughly the same seating capacity as Wings within a short period of time,” Cole said Wednesday.
He says that a Piper Chieftain with Instrument Flight Rules, or IFR, is on the way so that Fjord can better serve commuters in less-than-ideal weather.
Cole was born and raised in Southeast and says he understands the needs of locals more than a larger airline.
“When you’re operating in these small communities where you are literally bringing them their bread, or their medicine or taking them to a sporting event, whatever it may be, you are an actually part of their life.”
Wings will shut its doors after the last scheduled flight lands in Juneau this Friday, with Fjord taking over Saturday.
The release said that Wings is contacting customers booked for travel after Oct. 16 and providing full refunds and help with alternative travel. It also said that cargo for transportation will not be accepted after Wednesday. Customers must pick-up any cargo that remains unclaimed no later than 5 p.m. on Friday.
Robert McKinney, the CEO and President of SeaPort Airlines, Inc. said in the statement that the decision wasn’t easy considering that Wings has been a vital part of Southeast lives for three decades.
He said “Air service to rural Alaska communities has many unique challenges and aspects to it that contrast significantly with our Lower 48 operations. We believe that a company, such as Fjord Flying Service, that exclusively serves Southeast Alaska will be able to better meet the needs of the communities and customers.”
He said that now Seaport can focus on improving their service in the Lower 48.
According to Seaport, the transaction with Fjord includes buildings, equipment, computers, vehicles at various Wings stations throughout Southeast. The deal also included the “Wings of Alaska” brand. Not included was the cargo facility and hangar in Juneau, but Fjord will lease those on its own, the release said.
SeaPort employees here in Southeast were offered the opportunity to apply for jobs in the Lower 48 or try to stay in Southeast and apply at Fjord.
Last month, Sitka-based Harris Air started offering morning flights between Haines and Juneau but a representative who answered the phone Wednesday said she wasn’t sure about Skagway. A spokesperson didn’t return a request for an interview by press time.
Cole says that Fjord Flying Service has a good relationship with Harris, and that competition is good for everyone.
“I think that the additional service provided is only going to improve quality of live for these communities, especially as we’re looking at state shortfalls that are going to affect ferry service,” said Cole.