Wednesday, Sept. 25, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
Financially strapped by passenger projections that never materialized, Las Vegas-based TriStar Airlines is shifting to more lucrative charter hauls that have allowed the company to trim staff and expenses.
The airline has cut its flights to Reno and Eugene, Ore., and is scaling back its runs to Los Angeles and San Francisco to free up planes for charter business, which require fewer reservation and ground support personnel.
The company ended service to the Grand Canyon two months ago when it signed a marketing agreement with Eagle Canyon Airlines. When TriStar began operations in the summer of 1995, it focused its efforts on shuttling passengers from Asia to Las Vegas from the West Coast and from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon.
TriStar issued layoff notices Tuesday to an estimated 50 to 60 of its 205 employees and referred passengers with reservations on canceled flights to Reno Air.
It reportedly plans to cut its scheduled daily flights from Las Vegas to Los Angeles from five to two and to San Francisco from three to one.
Jeff Ruffolo, a spokesman for TriStar, said the airline discovered the market to Eugene was seasonal and "the numbers just weren't there" to continue. The company also competed against discounters Reno Air and Southwest Airlines on the Las Vegas-Reno route.
Ruffolo said the company now will commit at least one of its four British Aerospace 146 four-engine jets to charter operations, focusing on charters for casino properties and professional sports teams. The company recently posted a World Wide Web page to attract charter inquiries.
The charter industry is more attractive financially because expenses are paid for up front and the company does not have to have as many reservations and station personnel. Most of the employees laid off Tuesday were station employees. This morning, TriStar's counter at McCarran International was not staffed.
Ruffolo stressed that the personnel cutbacks would not affect the airline's commitment to safety.