Winair discount airline shuts down
Winair Airlines of Salt Lake City has shut down after operating as a discount airline for eight months.
The airline, which had its hub at Long Beach, Calif., ceased operations Tuesday after a deal to raise additional money from an investor group fell apart.
”We ran out of financial fuel,” said Richard Winwood, the airline’s founder and a cofounder of what is now Franklin Covey Co.
Winwood said the startup costs were significantly higher than expected. Winair, previously a potential candidate for commercial service into Lake Tahoe Airport, lost more than $15 million, he said.
Janis Brand, Lake Tahoe Airport Management Assistant, claimed the company folded due to incomplete maintenance records and subsequent Federal Aviation Administration action.
“Someone really messed up over there – the aircraft they bought did not have the appropriate maintenance logs and the FAA grounded several of their craft,” Brand said. “At that point, you’re better off just using them for parts.”
Nevertheless, Brand said if the airline had begun service at Lake Tahoe Airport, Winair investors would probably have come through and supported it.
“When (Winair) was here, their investor was with them and said they would put in $20 million,” Brand said. “I’m rooting for them, but they knew what they were doing all along. We were just floored that someone would buy a plane that did not have complete maintenance records.”
Winair started as a charter airline and began offering commercial flights in November. At its peak, it employed 500 people and offered 14 flights a day from the Long Beach Airport, including flights to Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Las Vegas and Oakland, Calif.
The closure came just weeks after the company cut its four airplanes to two and laid off about 75 workers. The company also stopped its flights to Oakland.
Winair Chief Executive Officer Larry Gelwix, speaking at a press conference at the Long Beach Airport, said the company needed about $30 million to acquire the additional planes needed to stay in business.
In all, about 360 employees found out Tuesday that the airline was shutting down and were told they would receive final paychecks next week.
-Associated Press contributed to the story
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