By Fangzhong Guo
Dash Air Shuttle Delays Launch Again
Dash Air Shuttle announced on July 27, 2022, that the company would be delaying the launch of flights due to a DOT complaint filed by Kenmore Air. The company announced its inaugural date less than a month ago from the latest delay.
The Tukwila, Wash-based company has suspended ticket sales and would refund all previously-purchased tickets. In the meantime, the airline is urging community members to comment on DOT’s website. So far, the docket has received more than 200 overwhelmingly supportive comments in Dash’s favor.
Kenmore Air’s complaint is mainly around two points.
The first is that the newly founded airline is not fit for providing commuter air services under DOT regulations. While Dash likely achieved all necessary safety certificates from FAA for starting service, Kenmore is focusing on financial fitness. The complaint suggests that the company lacks economy fitness approval from the Office of the Secretary of Transportation.
The fitness in question seems to be Commuter Air Carrier authority according to 49 USC 41102 and 14 CFR 201. The regulation dictates that an operator operates “small aircraft” and carries passengers on at least five round-trip flights per week on at least one route to acquire a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity or a Commuter Air Carrier Authorization. The startup airline’s proposed service uses a 9-seat Cessna airplane and includes 25 round-trip flights per week.
A brief search on regulation.gov did not return a commuter air carrier authority for either Dash Air Shuttle or its operational partner, Backcountry Aviation. While the investigation was not comprehensive and did not mean the parties failed to meet the regulation, it was easy to return Kenmore Air’s application for said authority in contrast.
The second issue cited by the Kenmore, Wash-based airline is the nature of the new air service. The airline cited Dash’s interview stating the service’s benefits in connecting to interstate and international services. In its view, Dash’s announcements constitute false advertising because it cannot provide interline agreement on interstate routes.
On a more confusing note, although the latest regional airline will only fly between Seattle and Port Angeles, Wash, which is intrastate, Kenmore argues the operation is interstate because Dash markets it on the internet. The complaint further added that selling tickets to out-of-state residents also violate the interstate rule.
The main reason Kenmore Air lodges this complaint is that the airline believes Dash Air’s business practice will bear competitive harm to itself.
The float-plane-focused airline pulled out from Port Angeles in 2014 and has previously turned down the city’s request to restart service. Therefore there is no direct competition between the two regional airlines.
There are, however, still a few potential reasons for Kenmore Air to view Dash Air Shuttle as a competitor. Kenmore Air offers charter service in the Pacific Northwest and may potentially lose the lucrative charter flight opportunity between the peninsula and Seattle. Secondly, Port Angeles is the gateway to Olympic National Park, one of Seattle’s top weekend getaway destinations. Kenmore Air’s route network centers around the San Juan Islands, another of Seattle’s top short getaway destinations. The new service can potentially divert passengers.
While a complaint doesn’t usually necessitate flight cancellations, the startup airline decided to do so to protect its customers. However, this may also protect the company from disciplinary measures by the DOT should the department side with the complainant.
The young airline is preparing responses to the DOT. In the meantime, travelers will need to remain patient. Even though most people want to bring service back to this community, it might be months before it takes off.