Amid legal dispute, PenAir bars tribal members from property

Associated PressJuly 13, 2012 

An airline targeted by a tribal lawsuit banned 15 residents of an island village from stepping on company property, a move a tribe leader said has left people stranded.

The unusual step by PenAir came after the Qagan Tayagungin Tribe filed the lawsuit alleging the airline owes past rent.

PenAir once rented space from the tribe at the Sand Point airport, Tiffany Jackson, executive director of the tribe, told KTUU-TV.

PenAir maintains that no money is owed and it has the right to protect its property amid tensions sparked by the lawsuit.

PenAir is the only airline that provides scheduled service to the remote Aleutian Island community of about 1,000 residents.

Those on the list of people banned from PenAir property must either hire a charter air taxi or use the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry, which sails every other week.

Jackson said people on the list are "basically stuck on the island." She accused the airline of retaliating against the tribe for the lawsuit.

Daniel Seybert, PenAir CEO, posted a letter at the Sand Point airport, dated June 27, naming the people who are not allowed in the PenAir terminal or on airline property.

"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.

The individuals on the list include tribal council members, employees and a contractor who works for the tribe, Jackson said.

"Right now the tribe just feels like we're being discriminated against. It's affecting our health, our safety, the economy," Jackson said.

Seybert said there have not been any confrontations so far between the company and the tribe, and he hopes to keep it that way.

Jackson recently wrote a complaint about PenAir's action to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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