- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - An Oregon-based commuter airline is shedding its Alaska operations to a local company better equipped to deal with the eccentricities of flying in Alaska.

SeaPort Airlines of Portland has sold its commuter airline, Wings of Alaska, to Fjord Flying Services, an air charter company operating out of Gustavus. The sale takes effect Saturday, the Juneau Empire reported (https://is.gd/zd7Jbe).

“Air service to rural Alaska communities has many unique challenges and aspects to it that contrast significantly with our Lower 48 operations,” SeaPort president Robert McKinney said in a statement. “We believe that a company, such as Fjord Flying Service, that exclusively serves southeast Alaska will be able to better meet the needs of the communities and customers.”

Because there are no highways connecting southeast Alaska communities, airlines have to act as “living and breathing infrastructure,” said Richard Cole, co-owner of Fjord Air.

“We’re more of a taxi service than an airline,” Fjord’s flight operation manager Carly Casipit said.

The change in ownership will be barely noticeable to customers, and the name Wings of Alaska will be retained, Cole said.

“One of the main differences is that most of the regular Wings customers have my phone number,” Cole said. “My grand ambition is not to run a national airline; it’s to run this airline the way it should be.”

Fjord acquired all of Wings of Alaska’s assets, including terminals in Hoonah, Haines and Gustavus. It doesn’t include aircraft, and Fjord anticipates adding five planes to cover operations.

The company normally employs 45 to 50 people during the summer and 35 to 40 in the winter. “There will be some reduction in staff but, in theory, it should be no less than the normal attrition at this point in the year,” Cole said.

The sale was initiated before a Wings of Alaska crash in July near Juneau that killed a pilot and injured four passengers.

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