Citing skyrocketing fuel prices, Pease-based Boston-Maine Airways will ground its three operating Boeing 727 jets for more than two months beginning next month.
Representatives of the airline, which flies out of Pease Airport as the Pan Am Clipper Connection, said it would suspend 727 service on Sept. 6 at Pease and at airports in St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.; Newburgh, N.Y.; and Columbus, Ohio. The airline said it would resume service around Nov. 17.
Representatives of the airline, which in recent court filings said it has lost more than $130 million in the past six years, said rising fuel costs and traditionally low bookings during the post-Labor Day period caused the airline to suspend service.
"We believe this is a smart business plan so that we may best serve our customers during peak periods," Boston-Maine said in a prepared statement.
On the Pan Am Clipper Connection Web site, Monday, Sept. 5, was the last available day to book a flight out of Pease.
A Boston-Maine spokesperson said the company will continue to operate a regular commuter-flight schedule out of Pease to Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass., and Trenton, N.J. on Jetstream 3100 turboprop planes.
David Mullen, deputy director of the Pease Development Authority, said the PDA received notification Monday from Boston-Maine about the suspension of service.
"We believe it’s a temporary reduction of service," Mullen said. "We expect it (the airline) to be back at operating capacity" in November.
Officials at Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus, where Pan Am began service in late June to Florida, said they were notified about the service suspension after business hours on Friday and have been in talks with the airline since.
Angie Neal, communications manager for the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, said staff members there were told by Pan Am that the airline planned to resume service in November. But she noted that it was rare for a smaller airline to suspend service and resume it at a later date.
In the past two years, Rickenbacker has lost two other passenger airlines, including Southeast, which abruptly halted service in December.
Boston-Maine has been the subject of a federal investigation that began earlier this month.
In the past year, Boston-Maine has repeatedly asked the Department of Transportation to expedite the certification process so it can proceed with expanding its fleet from three to seven 727 jets.
But that certification process came to halt when the DOT launched an official investigation into fraudulent information submitted by Boston-Maine as part of its certification request.
In late July, the airline admitted in legal filings that John Nadolny, the company’s former legal counsel, had altered data from bank statements intended to support the airline’s financial fitness to operate as an airline.
This financial statement admission followed one in June when Boston-Maine acknowledged that Nadolny provided a false surety bond in an unrelated settlement case with the Airline Pilot’s Association.
The airline pilot union opposes Boston-Maine’s certification request and claims that the airline is unfit to operate.
"It is unusual for an airline to shut down scheduled service for two months," said Marcus Migliore, an attorney with the ALPA. "If their financial situation is so marginal that they cannot maintain scheduled service, this would further support our assessment that the carrier is unfit to operate." Boston-Maine said in its statement, "We will resume our scheduled service as of November 17 to meet the holiday demands of the traveling public."