As a cost-cutting measure, PenAir will stop commercial air service flights and operations in Klamath Falls starting Monday, as well as all non-essential air service routes in Redding, Eureka/Arcata and North Bend/Coos Bay.
The announcement came to John Barsalou, airport manager at Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport, at about 3:30 p.m. Friday afternoon.
The last flight leaves Klamath Falls Monday night, according to Melissa “Missy” Roberts, vice president of marketing and sales for PenAir.
Flights operated by PenAir between Portland and Crescent City will continue as scheduled, according to the airline.
“The steps we are taking with closing Portland will allow PenAir to cut costs, while management continues its focus on financial stability and safe operations,” said Danny Seybert, chief executive officer and chairman of PenAir, in a news release.
EAS (Essential Air Service) routes are subsidized by the federal government. Klamath Falls is not subsidized.
Klamath Falls Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers and employees working for PenAir will be affected by the air service loss, Barsalou said.
“We were moving forward and to get that news, it was just … very disheartening,” Barsalou said.
“I’ll be working with the city manager and others in the community … to see what other options we have. We’ll continue to work hard at finding options. The realities are that the pilot shortage is hitting the country, not just us.”
Congressman Greg Walden, R-Ore., also weighed in: “This is an unfortunate and disappointing development. For over two years we worked to bring air service back to Klamath Falls, which is so important for the residents in the Basin, the local economy, and the Oregon National Guard operating out of Kingsley Field.
“I have been in touch with airport officials, my colleagues on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the Department of Transportation to try to find a solution,” Walden said.
“We loved being there,” PenAir’s Roberts said of Klamath Falls. “We loved the people and we loved the environment, and we just as a group of employees, we felt that there was a lot of potential.”
The commercial air service provider, based out of Alaska, has offered flights from Klamath Falls to Portland International Airport since October 2016.
Barsalou encourages those with tickets to contact PenAir, as there may be refunds available for flights already booked.
“Obviously it’s a business decision on their part,” Barsalou said. “We’ve done everything we could do to ensure their success. I’ve done everything I know how to ensure their success.”
Barsalou said he plans to hold a staff meeting on Monday to discuss a way forward.
“I just want to encourage those losing their jobs or may have jobs relocated that we are praying for them and hope that things work out for them,” he said.
“I encourage them to reach out to the community to see if they can help.”
Klamath County Economic Development Association Executive Director Greg O’Sullivan commented on the announcement.
“Very disappointing and in the short term is likely setback to business development in the Basin,” O’Sullivan said in an email. “However, the national and local jobs report reflects an economy that is growing. We will persevere!”
Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris said in a Facebook post, “While the news about PenAir discontinuing all non-essential air service, including in Klamath Falls, is disappointing, I believe where there is challenge there is opportunity. Your community leaders, including myself, will be working very hard on finding a suitable replacement. To the employees, there are resources standing by to help in this transition.”
Passengers scheduled to fly PenAir after Sunday should call 800-448-4226.
PenAir was founded in 1955 by Orin Seybert and operates Saab 340 aircraft with current flights to eight destinations in the United States. PenAir currently employs 700 employees nationally with 25 destinations.
More information will be updated to this story as it is made available. For updates, go online at www.heraldandnews.com.