Official says Harbor Air is on solid ground

Rumors still circulate that airline is in financial trouble.

  • Saturday, October 7, 2000 5:00pm
  • News

“Rumors have been, well, flying recently that Whidbey’s airline Harbor Air is in a business tailspin. The word bankruptcy has been in the air.Not so, said Harbor Air spokesman Rick Jones this week. In fact, he said, the airline just had its best summer season ever.It’s not at all true, said Jones. We have not declared bankruptcy and don’t intend to.Though he did not come right out and point a finger, Jones suggested that the rumors may be coming from a competing airline trying to syphon off some of Harbor Air’s passengers.We pretty much know where it’s coming from, he said.But that hasn’t stopped the rumor from circulating rapidly from local coffee shops to Town Hall. It was even mentioned recently during an Oak Harbor City Council workshop. None of the people the News-Times spoke with concerning the rumor had any hard evidence to support it, however.Late last month the airline did catch some bad press when officials at the Friday Harbor Airport on San Juan Island announced that Harbor Air was more than $8,000 delinquent in rent payments. Jones acknowledged that the company was in arrears but was now on a payment plan agreed to by both sides.Harbor Air started on Whidbey Island as Oak Harbor Airlines in 1971 but is now headquartered in Gig Harbor. It operates five aircraft between North Whidbey, Seattle, Friday Harbor, Eastsound and Port Angeles in Washington and between Portland, Newport and Corvallis in Oregon. Its busiest route is between Oak Harbor and Seattle, with nine flights per day. Jones said Harbor Air ridership is running ahead of last year. He said that since changing the company’s fleet of planes from 10-year-old piston-driven aircraft to new, larger, turbine Cessna Grand Caravans, the company is maintaining a better than 90 percent on-time rate on all of its northern routes with almost no cancellations due to mechanical problems.Before the conversion to the turbine planes, the company did go through some tough times, with regular breakdowns, unmet schedules, a drop in ridership and a rise in passenger complaints.But Jones countered the current rumors of company trouble by saying corporate revenues are now up, new pilots are in training and the fleet of planes is being updated with new interior carpeting. In addition, he said, the airline has plans to remodel and improve their terminal building at Oak Harbor Air Park.We’re happy, he said. We’re doing good. “

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