Opinion

Sound Off: Kenmore Air wants to stay

By Tamra Sipes

In his Feb. 23 “Sound Off,” Mike Lauver of Whidbey Sea-Tac Shuttle wrote that he does not consider Kenmore Air Express a competitor. This doubtless came as a surprise to anyone who has seen his ads in this paper.

He also said that, as a concerned taxpayer, he objects to the city’s accepting a Small Community Air Service Development Grant. So he would have been equally outraged if the $180,000 had gone instead to one of the 50 other communities that applied for but did not win this competitive federal grant?

From our perspective, our airline and his bus service are most certainly competitors — each providing viable transportation to Sea-Tac, each with its own merits. We’ll agree to disagree on that. Regardless, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Oak Harbor City Council, Island County Tourism, the Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, the Island County Economic Development Council and NAS Whidbey Island all agree with us that a small island community is better off with an airline and a bus line than with a bus line alone.

Since returning scheduled air service to Whidbey Island in May 2006, Kenmore Air Express has provided safe, fast and affordable flights to more than 20,000 Oak Harbor passengers. While we have not yet turned the corner to profitability in Oak Harbor, we are patient, we are confident, and we are committed to long-term viability in this market.

We are also not sitting idly waiting for good fortune to come our way. One proactive step to insure our success is our ongoing negotiation with a major airline at Sea-Tac that we anticipate will allow Oak Harbor passengers to take advantage of seamless interline ticketing throughout the United States by this summer. Another is the airline’s recent hiring of a local, dedicated Whidbey Island marketing representative — me. The air service development grant is just another tool for raising utilization of our service and helping to secure for the community the economic benefits of a viable airline service.

Kenmore Air has been in business for 62 years. We are financially sound, we have earned and work hard to maintain a reputation for excellence in customer service, and we have every intention of serving the Oak Harbor market for years to come. Any implication to the contrary is unsubstantiated alarmism. We would hate to see any passenger interested in experiencing our 25-minute flight times to Seattle driven away by unfounded rumors about our stability.

In fact, we would hate to see any passenger driven anywhere — come fly with us instead!

Tamra Sipes lives

in Oak Harbor.

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