DOT to review Kenmore complaints against Dash Air

The state Department of Transportation has closed the docket on the complaints filed against Dash Air by Kenmore Air after allowing the start-up air carrier additional time to respond to the complaints and now will review the material before ruling.

Dash Air said in a Facebook post that Kenmore had filed supplemental complaints in addition to its original 96-page complaint in July just weeks before Dash Air was set to start take off on Aug. 11.

In the same post, Dash Air said it had heard from DOT that it was done taking supplemental complaints from Kenmore and that comments on the docket were closed Monday (Sept. 26).

DOT granted Dash Air additional time to respond to the supplemental complaints, which were filed on Aug. 19 — the same day that Dash Air responded to the original complaint from Kenmore.

“They essentially waited until the 11th hour and then filed the additional supplements, which made it very difficult for us to respond,” said Clint Ostler, president of Dash Air.

“A lot of the things that are in the supplemental complaints are different versions of the same thing in the original complaint. A couple of the items are even no longer relevant.”

The initial complaint alleged that Dash Air was engaging in unfair and deceptive business practices and that it lacked the proper certifications to operate as an air carrier.

The supplemental complaints allege that Dash Air does not have the right insurance to operate as a scheduled airline, and it does not have the proper licenses to be a booking agent.

Additionally, the supplemental complaint targets Back Country Aviation (BCA), which will be working as Dash Air’s scheduling and operations company.

The complaint claims that BCA does not have the specifications needed to operate a scheduled air carrier, does not have proper insurance, does not have a license to operate in Washington state, and is registered to operate only in interstate (across state lines) commerce.

In its response to Kenmore’s complaint and on its Facebook page, Dash Air said that BCA had received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its intrastate (in-state) operations.

Kenmore has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to determine if it is true that BCA has received its intrastate license.

“All we have basically done is fact-check the claims that Dash Air has made,” said Hank Myers, a consultant for Kenmore Air.

“We are not interested in denying Port Angeles service to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. In fact, there’s even a kernel of an idea of how to provide the service. All we are concerned about is whatever carrier or company that provides it, that they are properly licensed and insured and that they have all the authority they need.

“This is not a competitive thing for Kenmore,” Myers said. “This is more of an issue that this is a company that does not appear to hold the necessary certifications.”

Kenmore Air stopped serving Clallam County in November 2014 and has said it does not plan to serve the area again.

In response Monday to Kenmore Air, Dash Air said Kenmore’s allegations in the supplemental complaints are repetitious and should be dismissed by DOT.

“Kenmore’s approach to keep creating new arguments to suppress a competitor does not prove any violation of DOT regulations, serve the traveling public or anyone other than Kenmore,” said the Dash Air response.

“Kenmore’s repeated attempts to form any cogent argument supporting why Dash Air should not be permitted to operate a route that Kenmore doesn’t even serve presents both the DOT and Dash with a complex ever shifting argument to defend.”

Now that the docket is closed, Dash Air awaits a response from DOT, which will review the complaints and comments.

Depending on the response from DOT, Dash Air will begin the process of getting back in the air.

“We really want solid direction from the DOT before moving forward,” Ostler said.

“Getting that blessing is really important to us before jumping back into taking bookings,” he emphasized.

“As soon as we get the OK from DOT, we will evaluate our business strategy in terms of frequency or when we start as we enter into the worst times of the year seasonally. We are just trying to see how that all works out in terms of demand and weather impacts.”