PenAir, the only airline with regularly scheduled service to the island village of Sand Point, recently banned more than a dozen members of the community from entering PenAir property in Sand Point, effectively banning the individuals from boarding the carrier's aircraft there, following a legal dispute.
Daniel Seybert, PenAir CEO, posted a letter at the Sand Point airport, dated June 27, naming 15 people who are not allowed in the PenAir terminal or on airline property. Among those named is Tiffany Jackson, executive director of the Qagan Tayagungin Tribe of Sand Point.
The only other way off the remote Aleutian chain community, population roughly 1,000, is via a charter air taxi or the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry, which sails every other week.
“We are basically stuck on the island,” said Jackson.
According to Jackson, the individuals targeted by PenAir include tribal council members, tribal council employees, and a contractor who works for the tribe.
“Right now the tribe just feels like we’re being discriminated against. It’s affecting our health, our safety, the economy,” said Jackson.
According to Jackson, the action is retaliation against the tribe for a lawsuit the tribe recently filed against PenAir seeking to collect rent money and other charges they allege are owed to the tribe.
PenAir once rented space from the tribe at the Sand Point airport, Jackson said.
“There were items in the lease which they weren’t paying, so we’ve been working to collect on these items since 2011,” said Jackson.
"We don’t owe them any money,” said Seybert, Thursday.
"With tensions escalating in Sand Point, we decided it would be best for our property and employees to not allow these people onto our property," he said.
PenAir insists the letter is not a no-fly list. The individuals named are allowed on PenAir aircraft -- they are just not allowed in buildings or on land that PenAir owns in Sand Point, Seybert said.
Passengers may not board a PenAir flight in Sand Point without first stepping foot on PenAir property, Seybert said.
Seybert said there have not been any confrontations netween the company and the tribe thus far, "and we want to avoid those."
Jackson recently wrote a complaint about PenAir's action to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
A response letter to Jackson from the division director says they are investigating the matter.
Email Ted Land