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|JetSuiteX Cancels All Flights at Santa Monica Airport through February 24|
By Niki Cervantes
February 2, 2017 -- JetSuiteX announced Wednesday it has canceled all flights from Monday, the day of its intended debut at Santa Monica Airport, through February 24. But the company said talks will continue with the City over its plan to operate there.
CEO Alex Wilcox said the cancellations were meant to “avoid uncertainty and confusion” in the wake of a new agreement between the City and federal government that called into question plans by JetSuiteX to begin providing a low-cost charter service at SMO.
The consent decree between the City and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)closes SMO by December 31 of 2028. But in the interim, the pact also clears the way for the City to shorten the airport’s only runway to 3,500 feet from the current 4,973 feet to 3,500 -- too short a distance for charter jet operations ("City, FAA Agree to Close Santa Monica Airport in 2028," January 28, 2017).
Wilcox has said he still has hope and on Wednesday said his company reached a “Standstill Agreement” with the City that delays, but does not end, negotiations.
"Given the uncertainty surrounding the status of the airport we have entered into this standstill agreement to provide time for an orderly process to negotiate with the city,” he said in a statement.
“We apologize to our clients, over half of whom are Santa Monica residents, who have been adversely affected by the unprecedented recent events concerning SMO airport."
Wilcox said the company will issue full refunds to all impacted customers; about 1,000 tickets had been purchased since JetSuiteX announced its new service in December.
In a statement issued late Wednesday, the City confirmed a “standstill agreement” had been reached with JetSuiteX.
"The City of Santa Monica is vigilant in its efforts to protect the health and safety of our neighborhoods surrounding Santa Monica Airport while it is still in operation," said Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer.
"We recognize our agreement with the FAA to close the airport in 2028 may have immediate impacts on existing aviation tenants. It is our desire to work with JetSuiteX and all other existing aviation uses to ensure a smooth and amicable transition."
But the Standstill Agreement added more fuel to SMO opponents already angered by a closure date that is so distant and related issues.
"Sounds to me like more backroom deals are underway to bring JetSuiteX to SMO,” said Martin Rubin, director of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP). “JetsuiteX CEO Alex Wilcox should be apologizing to the thousands of families who are truly adversely affected and whom he could care less about."
Rubin said anger over the consent decree has also intensified interest in a rally by airport opponents scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. in the large parking lot just north of Donald Douglas Loop North.
Among the speakers will be Mayor Winterer, who voted for the decree, which was approved by a 4-3 vote.
Also appearing will be U.S. Representative Ted Lieu, whose 33rd District includes Santa Monica, and Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin, whose 11th district includes parts of the City impacted by SMO operations.
Opponents in the decades-long battle say the airport is too close to homes and generates too much noise and jet pollution.
The aviation industry regards it as a reliever for Los Angeles International Airport. The county’s oldest airport, SMO caters primarily to leisure pilots and high-cost chartered jets.
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