Fairbanks firms happy with Condor guarantee

Posted: Wednesday, October 02, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A financial guarantee by 15 Fairbanks backers to fill seats for Condor Airlines has proved to be a safe bet.

Businesses, organizations and individuals in Fairbanks pledged $100,000 last spring to offset risk to the Germany-based vacation airline.

''This is a coup for our city,'' said Deb Hickok, president and chief executive of the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau. ''It will give us leverage for other efforts we may embark on.''

Condor carried passengers from Frankfurt to Fairbanks via Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The airline ran once-a-week nonstop flights from Fairbanks through Sept. 26.

Backers' money, put into an escrow account, guaranteed the number of passengers through the 19-flight season would be at least 950. As of Sept. 12, 1,067 people, mainly returning German tourists, boarded Condor in Fairbanks for the trip to Frankfurt. Round-trip tickets ranged from $650 to $850, Hickok said.

Had the return flight not averaged 50 passengers, Condor would have been compensated under the terms of the deal.

The Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau put up $14,000 toward the pledge. Other businesses, including hotels, tour operations and fuel companies pledged at least $1,000 each.

Hickok said backers will get their money back but the deal probably cost some businesses who lost interest on their tied-up cash.

The airline began service last year to Fairbanks on a trial basis. Bernie Karl, co-owner of Chena Hot Springs Resort, backed that flight.

Hickok said Condor is slated to return next year, but it's yet to be determined if the airline will ask for a financial guarantee.

''It's looking like we won't have to, but I don't want to jinx it,'' Hickok said. ''I don't want to say definitely we won't have to. I'd rather use the term 'cautiously optimistic.'''

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