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Monday, July 28, 2008

Alaska Juneau Expands to Lower 48

Alaska Juneau Aeronautics, which owns Wings of Alaska, launched a new airline last month connecting Seattle’s Boeing Field with Portland. SeaPort Airlines provides 90-minute service between the two fields, realizing something that Horizon Founder Milt Koult, a former Boeing employee, was never able to accomplish, despite having it as a dream.
The new service competes with Horizon Air’s 26 daily half-hourly departures which uses Sea-Tac as its Seattle destination and plugs its service as an alternative to The Slog – driving on I-5. The airline introduced a hilarious web site plugging its shuttle service. Related Story Horizon’s recently announced schedule changes will still overpower the fledgling operation. It said the 26 Horizon Shuttle flights each way (taking effect Aug. 25 and five flights less than today) will be trimmed by two additional flights starting Oct. 26, and the remaining 24 Shuttle flights each way will be operated with Q400s or CRJ-700s. Shuttle flights will operate hourly and also on the half-hour during busier commute periods of the day.
“As frequent travelers between Portland and Seattle know, there’s no good way to get between the two cities — until now,” says Kent Craford, CEO of SeaPort Air Group. “Sea-Tac is so far from Seattle, it’s its own city.” SeaPort’s Chief Operating Officer Rob McKinney has over 20 years experience in aviation, including most recently as COO of two Part 135 carriers – Mokulele and Pacific Wings – in Hawaii.
SeaPort, which touts Boeing’s field and its proximity to downtown Seattle (six miles from downtown) les compared to Sea-Tac (14 miles away), introduced the service on June 30, with a total of eight roundtrips daily, leaving every 45 minutes during peak times – morning and late afternoon. Weekend service will also be available, with a shortened schedule. It expects to expand its schedule in the fall.
“SeaPort Airlines is here, scaled and designed to meet the needs of the 186-mile trip between Seattle and Portland,” said the fledgling carrier. “A group of Portland investors announce this new scheduled air service which gets travelers from downtown to downtown in 90 minutes, cutting three hours roundtrip over driving I-5 or flying the big airlines. The way travel was meant to be, with all the conveniences of private air travel, but without the big price tag.”
It also touts the convenience of having a Part 135 operation, considered general, rather than commercial, aviation, which gives SeaPort the ability to fly into airports such as Boeing Field which avoids the threshold for TSA screening, affording the ability for passengers to arrive only 15 minutes before flight. But Horizon streamlined its shuttle by adding security-screening express lines (available in both Portland and Seattle) giving Shuttle passengers the ability to bypass the long lines to TSA checkpoints and waste no time in arriving at the gate.
SeaPort also offers free parking in front of its own private terminal in the business aviation area at PDX. Only one other Part 135 operation resides at Boeing Field – Kenmore Air, which connects Seattle to Canada and the San Juan Islands to the north. However, an analysis recently found that Kenmore was cancelling its Boeing Field service.
Flights will cost $149 round trip during the month of July as an introductory fare. Fares will go up based on availability with $224 being the highest price for a one way ticket plus applicable taxes and fees.

Horizon’s Response
Horizon Air just announced fares as low as $69 each way plus taxes and fees for the Horizon Shuttle between Seattle and Portland when tickets are purchased by July 31 for travel through Aug. 24, 2008. The $69 one-way fare is available with no advance purchase required, and is available on a limited basis on flights between Seattle and Portland scheduled to depart from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. or 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. through Aug. 24, 2008.
In addition, Horizon is offering Double Miles on the route (July 1 through Sept. 15, 2008) for passengers with Horizon Air/Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan frequent flier accounts.
SeaPort uses the Swiss-built Pilatus PC-12s, a pressurized turbo-prop which goes head to head with Horizon’s Bombardier CRJ 700s, currently being phased out in favor of Bombardier’s Q400. It also competes against power of Alaska Airlines and its distribution systems. It chose the nine-seat PC-12 for its efficiency – which so far means using only 51 gallons of jet fuel on each flight, according to CEO Kent Craford.
The airline has three PC-12s typically used as corporate planes, the latest and largest member of the Pilatus family. While more expensive than the Cessna 402, which launched many an airline – Craford indicated that passengers love it and its efficiency also allows for more turns because of its speed. PC-12s have the ability to fly up to an altitude of 30,000 feet but SeaPort’s planes will typically fly at a peak of 16,000 feet owing to the short trip.
SeaPort Airlines is a dba of Alaska Juneau Aeronautics (AJA), an FAA Part 135 certified scheduled air service with 25 years experience in commercial aviation. Alaska Juneau Aeronautics and SeaPort Air’s sister airline Wings of Alaska are wholly-owned subsidiaries of SeaPort Air Group LLC, a Portland, Oregon-based company founded by Portland investors John Beardsley, Tom Carrollo and Craford. They have been working on the airline’s development for three years and are based in Portland where 35 are employed in the new operation, including 10 pilots — five captains and five first officers. The certificate and operations oversight is in Juneau, through AJA, which employs 70 there including Wings of Alaska which operates daily scheduled service between Juneau and four outlying communities.
In Seattle, SeaPort Air will operate out of King County Municipal Airport, also known as Boeing Field, just south of downtown, and out of its own terminal adjacent to Flightcraft at Portland International Airport. “Both sites avoid the congestion and delays associated with TSA check-points and the remoteness of Sea-Tac airport,” said the carrier. “SeaPort Air also offers the ability to arrive 15 minutes before your flight, on-site parking and an alternative to the congestion and delays of Sea-Tac airport.
“Whether you’re traveling on business, heading to a Mariners game or visiting Portland for tax-free shopping, SeaPort Air offers the fastest and most convenient way to get between the Northwest’s two largest cities,” says Craford. “We’re convinced that once people experience our service, they will never go back to the alternatives. Who wants to spend three more hours traveling than they have to?”
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