A rebooted version of Ravn airlines will resume scheduled flights to Unalaska and several other Alaska communities in less than a week. Ravn Alaska CEO Rob McKinney says federal authorities granted approvals last Friday.
"This is the last piece that we've been waiting for, basically since August, when we filed our application with the DOT," McKinney said. "We were found 'fit, willing and able' to provide scheduled service to the public. And the DOT found that all the objections [to us flying] had no merit and we are now turned loose to go fly with whatever frequency to whatever destination that we want."
Twice daily service between Unalaska and Anchorage will begin on Nov. 30. Service to several other communities will be rolled out in December and January.
"We're going to have flights to Aniak, Cold Bay, Fairbanks, Homer, Kenai, and Sand Point, and we're working with the DOT on restarting service to St. Paul," he said.
Ravn began offering regular charter flights earlier this month. That was an interim measure designed to bridge the service gap until it received final DOT approval to move forward with scheduled commercial service. The airline was limited to four public charter flights per week to each destination, and couldn't transfer passengers to other airlines.
McKinney said charters will no longer be necessary.
"That was just a workaround until we got this final authority," he said. "So now, there's no need for that, and we can go back and pursue agreements with other airlines. We're working hard on that already."
McKinney said tickets will cost around $549 one-way between Anchorage and Unalaska, but prices could be subject to change, depending on whether or not flights fill up. And, he added, there will continue to be a discount for Aleutian Island residents — a policy the airline instituted with its public charter service.
"If you have a government ID with an Aleutian address, there's a $399 one-way fare for local residents," he said.
McKinney said they are in contact with Alaska Airlines to resume a partnership and allow Unalaskans to use the larger airline's mileage program to purchase tickets in the future.
The airline will be flying the DeHavilland Dash 8-100 aircraft, with a 29 or 37-person capacity, depending on the destination, said McKinney. The aircraft will likely make a refueling stop on flights between Unalaska and Anchorage.
"But I'm also happy to announce I'm in final negotiations for a Dash 8-300 series that holds up to 50 people, but has extended range tanks and will consistently always be able to make Anchorage to Dutch Harbor nonstop," he said.
McKinney hopes to have those up and running and in use by next spring, he added.
In the meantime, McKinney said the airline has brought back previous staff to work and fly the routes, including pilots with experience flying into Unalaska and its short runway.
"We are starting to bring back a percentage of PenAir employees," he said. "But we started with the core staff and mechanics and pilots and flight attendants that worked for Corvus on the Dash-8 aircraft previously."
RavnAir Group filed for bankruptcy in April, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. After a lengthy bidding process, a Southern California commuter service called FLOAT Shuttle struck a last-minute deal to buy Ravn’s operating certificates, rebooting the company into the newly branded Ravn Alaska.