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Kenai carrier to be sold

Posted: Friday, October 08, 2004

Air carrier Kenai Express, which began offering daily passenger service from the Kenai Municipal Airport to Anchorage International Airport on June 1, is changing owners.

Dottie Fischer of Kenai-based Alaska's Best Travel, the travel agency that operated Kenai Express' reservation service, is in the process of acquiring the carrier's Kenai to Anchorage route. She said she hopes to complete the transaction next week.

There will be a few schedule changes, including fewer midday flights. Passenger service will continue while the route changes hand. But reservations for flights after Monday will not be taken until a new schedule is determined, which could take a few days, she said.

Fischer is only acquiring Kenai Express' Kenai-Anchorage route, not the company's planes. Bellair, Inc., Kenai Express' parent company, will retain the planes and continue freight service out of the Kenai airport, she said.

Fischer's new company will not actually own aircraft, but will contract with professional charter pilots with their own planes to service the route -- a move designed to save money.

The current high price of aircraft fuel makes operating an air service expensive, but insurance premiums were the main reason Kenai Express decided to get out of the passenger service business, Fischer said.

"Insurance is always high for any carrier," she said. "The high cost of insurance was going to become an issue for Kenai Express."

The charter operators Fischer's new company -- which may or may not keep the Kenai Express name -- plans to hire carry their own insurance, eliminating that and other aircraft-related expenses for the new company.

Changes designed to improve service also are planned, including earlier morning flights out of Kenai to better serve workers on the North Slope and much early departures out of Anchorage so passengers on incoming red-eye flights won't have as long to wait for a connecting flight to Kenai, Fischer said.

Leases and other arrangements will have to be made, but Kenai airport manager Rebecca Cronkhite said she foresees no problems with the transfer of the route.

"The city of Kenai and the Kenai Municipal Airport will be happy to work with the new owner to ensure there's no interruption of service to the community," she said. "I feel positive that any administrative details can be worked out expediently."

Fischer said Kenai Express has customers booked as far ahead as July 2005 and, whatever her new company's name, Kenai Express tickets will honored.

"People are counting on us to be here and we will," she said.

Kenai Express owner Mike Spisak could not be reached for comment Thursday at either personal or office numbers.



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