West Air Trying to Acquire Routes of Virginia Airline

TIMES STAFF WRITER

West Air said Tuesday that it is talking with United Airlines about taking over the routes of a troubled Virginia airline that halted operations Monday.

West Air, based in Fresno, said it wants to take over the routes of Presidential Airways, which fed passengers from small East Coast cities to United Airlines' hub at Washington's Dulles International Airport. Presidential filed for bankruptcy protection in October.

West Air feeds passengers from small airports in California, Washington state and Oregon to United hubs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. It is the nation's largest regional airline and, as part of a marketing agreement with United, operates under the name United Express.

West Air is not the only airline interested in Presidential's routes. A person familiar with the situation said Tuesday that Air Wisconsin, an Appleton, Wis.-based regional airline that already flies into the Washington area, is also interested in Presidential's business. Air Wisconsin is also a United Express carrier.

Mark Peterson, a spokesman for West Air, said the regional airline is not yet sure how it would deploy aircraft to take over Presidential's 24 daily flights from six cities. He said West Air has orders and options for 37 British Aerospace Jetstream 31 aircraft, some of which could be used for an East Coast operation. The new aircraft are to be delivered through 1992.

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