Passengers traveling between Tyler and Houston should not expect to see a disruption in service as the parent company of Colgan Air, Inc. seeks bankruptcy protection.
Colgan provides regional air services to Tyler Pounds Regional Airport through United Express Airlines, a partner of Tennessee-based Pinnacle Airlines, Corp.
Earlier this month Pinnacle announced it was seeking Chapter 11 protection to reorganize and hopefully return to profitability and planned to withdraw Colgan from Tyler and other service areas.
Tyler Airport Manager Davis Dickson said change is coming, but he believes the transition will be a smooth one for customers.
“We’re not going to be down to one carrier,” he said. “What I see is another carrier coming in. My hope is that we don’t see any type of gap — if there is a gap, it should be small. I expect a seamless transition.”
As of Wednesday, there was no announced disruption in the 10 scheduled flights between Tyler and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, including arrivals and departures.
American Eagle, a separate carrier, provides eight arriving and departing flights between Tyler and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
Dickson said Wednesday that even though Colgan is affected by the bankruptcy, it wants to extend its current airport lease agreement to 2014.
Tyler officials said Colgan’s current agreement, first executed in 2008, includes language that allows the airline to assign the lease to a parent company, partner or other related entity.
As security for rent, the city will have a lien on all goods, wares, implements, fixtures, furniture and other property, excluding the aircraft itself, and may sell those items if the company falls behind in its obligations, records show.
The Tyler City Council agreed Wednesday to go along with the company’s request.
There was no word on what carrier could pick up Colgan’s service, but Dickson said there are a number of regional providers from which to choose.
Pinnacle officials said Wednesday the company is committed to fulfilling its responsibilities to customers.
It is unclear how many jobs are affected by the action — some people employed by the carrier may be under contract, officials said.
Pinnacle officials issued a statement earlier this month, saying the goal behind the bankruptcy is to implement a turnaround plan that will ease its financial challenges.
The April 1 statement indicates the company filed withdrawal notices with the U.S. Department of Transportation for all of the essential air service markets served by Colgan.
“Pinnacle has asked the DOT to establish an accelerated process to identify replacement carriers for the essential air markets it serves, which are currently served by Saab 340 aircraft,” the statement reads. “The remaining Saab 340 fleet that Colgan operates for United Express will be wound down over the next several months, with these operations expected to end by Aug. 1, 2012. Similarly, Colgan’s Q400 aircraft operations will be wound down by Nov. 30, 2012.”
Menke is being replaced by John Spanjers, the company’s current chief operating officer, the carrier announced last week.
Spanjers has been with the company less than a year, records show.
Pinnacle’s restructuring included a $74.3 million in special debtor-in-possession financing from Delta Air Lines, representing about $30 million in new funding for operations, records show.
“During this process, the company will remain focused on providing passengers with safe, reliable and timely service in collaboration with its network partners, Delta Connection, United Express and US Airways Express,” the airline’s statement read.
Pinnacle is a $1 billion airline holding company with 7.400 employees. It operates about 197 regional jets and 55 turboprops, providing more than 1,300 daily flights to 182 cities in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Belize, according to its website.
Tom Mullins, president/CEO of the Tyler Economic Development Council, said the Tyler to Houston connection is extremely important to the region.
“If you look at East Texas, Tyler has the best air service of this geographic area,” he said. “You can tell how popular it is because they are filling up those planes and offering vouchers” to those willing to wait.
Tyler Pounds Regional Airport is in the unique position of having connections to major airports in both Dallas and Houston, he said.
“It’s a huge asset,” he said. “I’ve heard there’s one, maybe more (carriers) that are interested.”