Skagway Air to shut down after 43 years

O'Daniel says he'd prefer go out 'with grace and dignity'

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2007

For Mike O'Daniel, there's never been a dull moment at Skagway Air Service, the airline his parents founded in 1964 and which he now owns.

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"There's been babies born and lives saved," he said.

But now, O'Daniel is ready to get out of the company with which he grew up and worked as a pilot for 28 years. On Wednesday, he confirmed the airline's final day of operation will be June 30.

"It's just been a fun great run and we've just been blessed with a good customer base who have supported us throughout the years," he said. "Now we are just going to go out and try and enjoy some of (Alaska)."

He said many people have been surprised to hear the decision was not made because of financial troubles.

"Most people assume that when you go out of business you've failed, but we are going out of business because we succeeded," he said.

He also said, however, that it has become increasingly difficult to find good, qualified people, and he'd would prefer to go out "with grace and dignity" rather than wait for conditions that would force them out.

The timing is also good - with summer being the busiest season, his roughly 15 employees should be able to find jobs easily, he said.

One threat to airlines such as Skagway Air Service has always been the proposed road north of Juneau along Lynn Canal.O'Daniel said that such a road would surely have put him out of business, but that did not play a factor in the decision to close.

"I expect I'll be long gone before a road is built," he said. He also said he wished officials would be more considerate of how such a road would affect businesses in rural communities such as Skagway.

O'Daniel said he is looking forward to having a summer vacation - a luxury he and his wife have hardly enjoyed for 30 years.

The airline provides service to Juneau, Haines, Gustavus and Skagway. O'Daniel said customers who have made reservations after June 30 should call 983-2218.

• Brittany Retherford can be reached at brittany.retherford@juneauempire.com or 523-2276.



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