PenAir surprised everyone Monday when the company announced it will stop flying passengers by year's end between North Platte and Denver.The flights will continue for another 90 days or more, company officials told the Bulletin Tuesday, but the news that PenAir will be leaving North Platte was a downer, coming just nine months after PenAir started flying toNorth Platte.
North Platte Airport Manager Mike Sharkey had no early warnings. He was as surprised as anyone Monday.
“We were definitely caught off guard by their announcement,” he said.
PenAir will reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
PenAir flights to and from Portland, Ore. stopped immediately. Flights in the Midwest, including Nebraska, could end in 90 days, according to the bankruptcy reorganization.
PenAir’s Vice President of Marketing and Sales Melissa Anderson said there are definitely challenges for airlines “and the main one right now is a nationwide crew shortage.”
Anderson believes airlines can make a profit serving small airports if they can overcome the crew shortages.
“We loved the community, being a part of it,” Anderson said. “We felt we had a lot of support and were building a good market, but our problems came at a bad time.”
Sharkey said PenAir will continue to serve North Platte until a new airline is found.
“According to a contract North Platte has with the U.S. Department of Transportation to fly our essential air route, PenAir will stay with us while we go forward with the rebid process to find and get another reliable airline to take over,” he said.
Anderson said that means PenAir will fly in and out of North Platte for 90 days -- or longer.
Sharkey thinks it will take “four months or so” to get a new airline.
Anderson told the Bulletin that, “North Platte is a growing market. There is potential there. Every market takes time to build. Unfortunately, we just ran out of time. I don’t think it really is necessarily one thing, but more of a multitude of items that married themselves together and became a large item that caused our company to ultimately make the decision to reorganize,” she said.
PenAir is not going out of business but had to cut back.
“Unfortunately the cuts that were most readily available were the ones we most recently started,” Anderson said. “We have been in Alaska for 62 years. It is a very large market for us so we have no intentions of leaving it. And our Boston market -- we have been there for five years and we have some additional contracts there that make it very lucrative.”