Air shuttle service to continue through April
Air Wisconsin has agreed to pay for space in the terminal.
The county had threatened to stop the operations Wednesday when United Airlines’ 10-year lease with the airport ended. United is currently undergoing bankruptcy reorganization.
To keep the flights, Air Wisconsin, which partners with United Airlines to operate the United Express shuttle service, on Thursday paid the county $150,000, part of an agreement to rent terminal space at the airport, said Eagle County Administrator Jack Ingstad.
“The airline (Air Wisconsin) has indicated it wants to continue with a one-year lease,” Ingstad said.
Although Air Wisconsin operates United Express flights, United Airlines used to pay the county about $800,000 for space at the airport.
In December, however, weeks after filing for brankruptcy, United petitioned in court to terminate leases with dozens of airports and travel centers across the country, including the Eagle County Air Terminal Corporation. The corporation was set up to issue bonds for the terminal expansion.
“We feel much more confident since Air Wisconsin gave us a deposit,” Ingstad said. “Now, we’re still working on having a one-year-long contract with them. I think they paid with the intention of signing the agreement.”
Christine Mangi, spokeswoman for Air Wisconsin, said Friday she couldn’t speculate on the future of the shuttle service. Air Wisconsin operates nine daily flights to and from Denver in winter; the service continues in the summer with fewer flights.
“As far as we are concerned, we’re in the middle of negotiations,” she said.
Mark Davidson, director of aviation at Eagle County Regional Airport.
said he expects a decision on the agreement by next week.
“If they execute the lease we want them to sign, it will mean service through November,” Davidson said. “If we can’t reach an agreement, Air Wisconsin can still operate from the airport, but they”ll have to pay more.”
Air Wisconsin, however, will not take over United Airlines contract with the county, Davidson said.
In 2001, United signed a lease agreement with a number of guarantees on the $15 million bond taken to pay for the airport’s expansion. The airport partially relies on that contract as one of the guarantees for the bonds.
The guarantees could be needed if the airport loses revenue from the other airlines, which are under one-year contracts, Ingstad said.
“We’re trying to protect ourselves in bankruptcy court,” he said. “In the meantime, we will to continue to collect passenger facility charges from United.”
Last week, the county received a check from United for $15,000 those charges, Davidson said.
On Dec. 9, United Airlines made the largest bankruptcy filing in aviation history. The airline said it was the only way to keep the world’s No. 2 airline flying after two years of heavy losses.
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.