John Lucas was generous in choosing to open the books of Wings of Alaska in his effort to explain the importance of their summer tourism operations to their year-round economic viability. Hopefully he will continue to engage the dialogue by responding to the following questions raised by his Sept. 24 My Turn:
What portion of Wings' $460,000 average "winter losses" may be attributed to expenses associated with summer downtown tourism flightseeing? Insuring and storing a fleet of Otters for tours must be a significant expense. Surely annual maintenance is scheduled during the winter periods when aircraft are not needed and replacement engines and other capital expenses accrue during this time. Given the cost of aircraft, perhaps there are loan or lease payments toward tour aircraft that continue through the winter.
With respect to the $2.50 fee for each scheduled service segment, are icefield and salmon-bake tour flights taxed as scheduled flights?
Wings has a reputation as a good employer and I'm sure that their largely part-time representatives in outlying villages appreciate the employment offered far more than we can imagine. How many of those jobs are tied to the mass flightseeing tours offered cruise passengers from downtown Juneau (compared say, with Postal Service contracts)? How many of the nine non-resident seasonal pilots are?
Point-to-point travel between communities would not be impacted by the flightseeing initiative. The Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau could take this as an opportunity to promote Juneau's quiet day to independent visitors, encouraging visitors to stay long enough to experience our quiet day and other activities. Cruise passengers visiting on Saturdays could enhance the revenues (and employment possibilities) of other Juneau businesses such as Gastineau Guiding, the Mount Roberts Tram or Glacier Gardens and leave with a more positive experience for what they may not even know they missed, the din of helicopters and floatplanes.
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