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San Juan Airlines To Stop Flying

May 17, 1989

PORT ANGELES, Wash. (AP) _ San Juan Airlines will stop flying and close its headquarters in Port Angeles if the Canadian government approves the sale of its four Canadian routes to Horizon Air, San Juan President Jim Sherrell said.

″This is the end of a long era,″ Sherrell said Monday. ″It’s tough to let that go.″

San Juan will continue to operate its Shuttle Express ground transportation service at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

San Juan describes itself as the nation’s oldest commuter airline. Its roots go back to Orcas Island Air Service, which began flying from Orcas Island in the San Juan archipelago to Bellingham, Wash., in 1947. Sherrell bought the airline in 1979.

The decision on selling the routes is expected this summer from Canada’s national transportation agency. The sale already has been authorized by the U.S. Department of Transportation and won conditional approval from Canada.

Horizon already is flying the routes, though technically they still belong to San Juan.

San Juan has been cutting back flight operations since December, when it announced that a preliminary sales agreement had been reached with Horizon on the Port Angeles-Victoria, Seattle-Vancouver, Bellingham-Vancouv er and Seattle-Victoria routes.

At one time, San Juan employed about 230 people. Only a year ago, it had 128 workers in Port Angeles, making it one of Clallam County’s top industrial employers.

Today, just 15 people still work for the airline in Port Angeles, and a dozen of those jobs should be phased out in 30 days, Sherrell said.

San Juan once served Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia; Portland, Ore.; Seattle, Everett, Bellingham and Port Angeles, Wash.; and the San Juan Islands. Now the company makes a single round trip five days a week between Port Angeles and Friday Harbor.

This year, San Juan has reduced its fleet from 15 aircraft to a single Cessna 402.

Sherrell said changes in the commuter airline market were responsible for the decision to sell San Juan’s Canadian routes. Small, independent commuter airlines are facing increasing competition from regional carriers, which are growing and aligning with major airlines, he said.

″I didn’t want to get out of the airline industry,″ Sherrell said. ″Time dictated that we get out of it.″

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