RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
/ MARCH 2006
Island Air may have found a use for its Q400 airplanes, one of which was recently removed from service. The carrier is planning to fly for a new company out of Long Beach Airport in California. CLICK FOR LARGE
Island Air planning flights in California
The carrier is in discussions to serve Long Beach Airport, but would not fly trans-Pacific to Hawaii
Island Air, which earlier this month announced it was restructuring its Hawaii operations, is planning to fly on behalf of newly formed BAG Aviation Holdings LLC out of Long Beach Airport in California.
On Friday, BAG Aviation was awarded 17 out of 20 available commuter flight slots at the Southern California airport. In a November letter to Long Beach Airport Manager Chris Kunze, BAG Aviation President Alex Wilcox said Island Air would be providing his fleet with at least a combination of three Bombardier de Havilland Dash 8-100 and Q400 aircraft.
Island Air Chief Executive Rob Mauracher confirmed the Long Beach venture yesterday but said negotiations with BAG Aviation were still continuing and he couldn't provide any specific information about aircraft or employees.
Island Air does have aircraft available. Two of its 37-seat Dash 8s are not being used because of its recent restructuring, and a third one is being used part time. Island Air also is in control of three 78-seat Q400s, one that recently was removed from service and two whose delivery was postponed.
As part of Island Air's restructuring, the interisland carrier laid off and furloughed about 65 full-time employees, removed two Dash-8s from service and eliminated five routes.
Wilcox said BAG Aviation would be using Island Air's operating certificate and that Island Air would be responsible for providing the employees. He said the new airline would fly within California and out of state, but not to Hawaii.
"(Mauracher has) a surplus of (Dash 8-100s) in the Hawaii market now so the economics might be better on that airplane as we continue to negotiate which one makes sense," said Wilcox, a former JetBlue Airways executive.
"We'll need between five and 10 planes for the slots once we get up and running," he said.
Wilcox added that the number of planes listed in the letter as coming from Island Air is nonbinding and that the number of aircraft could change.
Long Beach Airport has 25 commuter slots, which are restricted to aircraft that weigh 75,000 pounds or less, according to Sharon Diggs-Jackson, public affairs officer for Long Beach Airport. Delta Connection and US Airways already are serving five of those slots. Seattle-based Horizon Air, which also had been competing for the 20 available slots, was awarded three of them on Friday. A flight slot consists of an arrival and departure, Diggs-Jackson said.
She said BAG Aviation has 90 days from Dec. 15, the day the slots were awarded, to provide scheduling, routes and other information required by the airport. She said the airline has 180 days to be flying.
"I think the airport has got a lot of potential," Wilcox said. "I used to work there when I was with JetBlue and I know the city well, the airport well and the market well. I guess you go with what you know."
Wilcox, whose company is based out of Nevada, said he'll lease the planes from Island Air. He said he's keeping the name of the new airline under wraps for now.