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Fri, Jul 04, 2008

Airline Hopes To Lure Seattle Business Away From Horizon

SeaPort Offers Service Between PDX And BFI

Lots of people travel between Portland, OR and Seattle, WA on business. There are several ways to get there. One is Horizon Air's shuttle... but by the time you park, negotiate the terminal, deal with the TSA, and deal with ground travel at your destination, flying can take as long or longer than the three-hour trip by car.

But what if you could fly from Boeing Field instead of Sea-Tac, putting you closer to Seattle, be guaranteed you'd have no more than eight fellow passengers, have more convenient parking at a much smaller, quieter terminal, and not have to take off your shoes? Would it be worth flying aboard a single-engine turboprop, with no lavatory or flight attendant, and paying more for it?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports Kent Craford is betting the answer, at least for many business travelers on day-trips, will be "yes." Craford is the CEO of SeaPort Airlines, which has operated for 25 years in Alaska as a commuter airline under the name, "Wings of Alaska." SeaPort's new service started Monday, flying Pilatus PC-12s under Part 135 rules between Portland and Seattle every 45 minutes during peak times. Flight time is only 40 minutes.

Craford says the idea to provide an alternative to the airlines came from watching business associates travel between Seattle and Portland. "I had clients who owned planes, and it was so easy and comfortable and convenient. Why can't the average Joe do this?

"We bring the convenience of a private plane to the average business traveler for roughly the same cost of a commercial airline. We think we will be the new norm for short-distance travel."

Despite the steep introductory fares of $149 round-trip -- which will become $149 one-way after the introductory offer ends -- some of SeaPort's planes are already full.

If there was any doubt Horizon was taking notice, it was erased on opening day Monday. Drivers parked at Boeing Field found flyers on their cars hyping Horizon Air's new discounted fare of $69 each way between Seattle and Portland. And Craford says Horizon's VP of flight ops was seen peering through the fence to see how the first day was going.

When asked about the fliers, Dan Russo, Horizon's vice president of marketing, told the P-I, "Just good old American competition."

Craford appeared unfazed. "We take that as validation that we are on to something. This is the future. We are simply not in the same market anymore."

FMI: www.seaportair.com

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