Big Sky parent company will liquidate, move its western routes to other carrier

Sunday, December 23, 2007

MINNEAPOLIS -- The parent company of Big Sky Airlines will liquidate itself and transfer the western routes of its Big Sky Airlines subsidiary to another carrier, the president and chief executive officer of MAIR Holdings Inc. said.

CEO Paul Foley made the announcement in a conference call with analysts Thursday, a day after Billings, Mont.-based Big Sky said it would shut down its East Coast operations as of Jan. 7 due to poor revenue, bad weather and high fuel prices.

Big Sky was the primary remaining business unit of Minneapolis-based MAIR Holdings after it sold bankrupt Mesaba Airlines to Northwest Airlines Corp. early this year. Mesaba emerged from bankruptcy in April as a wholly owned subsidiary of Northwest, which exited bankruptcy in May.

MAIR intends to complete its liquidation as quickly as possible and distribute its remaining cash to its shareholders sometime next year, Foley said. After that, MAIR will no longer exist, he said.

Foley did not say how much shareholders will get, but he said Mair's assets include $38.5 million in cash on hand; seven planes worth about $2.7 million each for a total of about $18.9 million, and about $3 million worth of spare parts. He also said MAIR will try to sell Big Sky's operating certificate, perhaps to the operator that takes over the western routes. He did not say how much the operating certificate might be worth.

The distribution will also include whatever MAIR ultimately gets from Mesaba's bankruptcy trust after Mesaba's creditors get their final payments, he said.

Big Sky president Fred de Leeuw said the U.S. Department of Transportation was working with Big Sky on transferring the route. He said Big Sky was talking with several carriers but declined to name them.

Altogether, Big Sky employs just under 450 people.

"We're looking for jobs for them," de Leeuw said.

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