Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Wings of Alaska shuts down; air carriers down to 1

 


Wings of Alaska has shut its doors, reducing service to Haines to a single air carrier.

But as the company’s service has been limited, the closure apparently won’t make a big difference, residents said this week.

Wings managing partner Aldwin Harder told the Juneau Empire Monday the decision to close was “primarily an economic one,” and that aviation was a “difficult business to make money in.”

In Haines, Alaska Seaplanes staff have commented on the local Wings terminal being mostly closed since November.

Gustavus-based Fjord Flying bought Wings from a Portland aviation company in October 2015. Fjord owner Richard Cole said at the time his company’s service would match that of Wings and continue to handle freight, but Alaska Seaplanes has since been responsible for mail and freight delivery into Haines.

Postmaster Genevieve Bell said the loss of Wings won’t affect mail delivery at all.

“Seaplanes has been bringing all our mail and they’ve been doing great,” Bell said. “There have been no delays. Even yesterday (Monday) we got our mail even though it was a no-flying day. Seaplanes has a van that comes from Juneau on the ferry.”

Chamber of Commerce executive director Debra Schnabel said, similar to pizza parlors, restaurants and gas stations, another entity will likely fill any hole in the market.

“It’s always sad when a business does not succeed,” Schnabel said. “Lives are disrupted and the economy is disrupted momentarily, but usually somebody will fill a gap, if there is one.”

Borough tourism director Leslie Ross minimized the impact to tourism as a result of the airline closing. Once Fjord Flying took over, they didn’t nail down a regular flight schedule, she said.

“They weren’t keeping a regular schedule so I don’t see it impacting us that much,” Ross said. “Of course it impacts us not having another company that can charter out, but they weren’t offering that set daily service.”

Haines has been served by as many as three competing airlines since the 1980s, although the number dropped to two more recently. Combined with cuts to ferry service, Wings’ demise appears to mean fewer options for getting goods and people to town.

But at the Seaplanes office in Haines this week, station manager Diana Lambrecht said the airline has been able to meet demand by adding capacity, including by using larger planes. Seaplanes now flies five, 14-passenger Cessna Caravans, including two bought in 2016.

Because they can be flown on instrument flight rules, the larger planes also can make more flights, Lambrecht said. “We’re gearing up for the summer season.”

Alaska Department of Transportation Southeast Region Aviation Leasing Chief Lyn Campbell said there have been no Wings flights in or out of Haines for the past several weeks.

Her office has been in communication with Glacial Aviation, the parent company of the airline, for more than a year regarding its service, the transition to new ownership and changes the company plans to make.

“There’s been no final decision made at this point,” Campbell said. “The lease is under the name Glacial Aviation and there are multiple partners involed. They haven’t told us that they’ve decided what their future holds. Something will happen but we don’t know what it’s going to be at this point.”

Calls to Cole, Harder and Fjord Flying management went unreturned.

 
 

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