Wings Air says competitor not living up to federal agreement

An airline that didn’t receive a federal bid to provide subsidized flights out of Macon and Athens is crying foul.

Air Greco Inc., doing business as Wings Air, competed this year with Pacific Wings LLC, doing business as Georgia Skies, to provide Essential Air Service from Macon and Athens to Atlanta. Now, Wings Air says in documents filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation that Georgia Skies has not lived up to its agreement for service and that it’s using its subsidy “as a war chest or platform in an effort to drive a competitor (Wings Air) from the market,” according to a Tuesday document. But the DOT doesn’t agree with Wings Air and says Georgia Skies is meeting its obligations.

In May, the federal DOT selected Georgia Skies to replace Atlantic Southeast Airlines to provide subsidized air service to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. In September, Wings Air announced it would offer flights, which are not subsidized, between Macon and Atlanta.

The complaint points out that Georgia Skies is not providing, as promised in its bid, seamless travel by flying directly into a terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson because passengers now have to take ground transportation between the plane and terminal. Also luggage must still go through security in Atlanta.

Wings Air asked the DOT to terminate its subsidy for Georgia Skies and to re-solicit proposals for service. While Georgia Skies has not responded to the complaint, the DOT has and filed an order denying the motion.

In part, the DOT states that Georgia Skies is “substantially performing” its ongoing two-year contract with DOT in Macon and Athens. Also, the DOT does not want to set an “unwanted precedent giving unsuccessful applicants a ‘second bite at the apple’ by re-initiating competing service and complaining about the service we awarded.”

Greg Kahlstorf, CEO of Georgia Skies, said Tuesday from Hawaii that the DOT is well aware his company has been working to get access to Atlanta’s terminals. As soon as that happens, security will be taken care of in Macon and Athens, he said.

“We knew coming in that Hartsfield is big and ... it would take us a while to get the access we need,” Kahlstorf said. “We made no secret about our difficulty getting into Atlanta.”

The two airlines currently are embroiled in a price war as both have slashed rates. Most recently, Wings Air offered tickets for 99 cents this month and Georgia Skies is offering free flights the day before Christmas, Christmas Day and the day after.

Kahlstorf said his company is trying to focus on its own objectives and not what its competitors are doing.

“We think the competition is ultimately good for consumers and we would rather compete than complain,” he said. “We haven’t gotten involved in this controversy because from our perspective, we have a federal procurement contract that creates all the rules.”

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.