Ravn Alaska will return to six Alaska communities on Friday, with regularly scheduled public chartered flights offered by Ravn Travel.
Tickets are now available for scheduled flights between Anchorage and Unalaska, Sand Point, Homer, Kenai and Valdez, according to Ravn CEO Rob McKinney.
"We were issued our public charter status under Part 380 of the U.S. Department of Transportation's rules, which means that we can publish the schedule for four round trips per week to any given pairs of cities," McKinney said.
Under DOT public charter regulations, Ravn was required to establish a separate agency, Ravn Travel, in order to offer the service. The airline is also limited to four flights per week to each destination, until it receives final DOT approval to resume regular scheduled service.
"We were hoping we would have had our regular authority by now, but that hasn't worked out," said McKinney. "So we're trying this other direction just to get service going as quickly as we can."
Last month, two airlines — Alaska Seaplanes (Kalinin Holdings, Inc.) and Alaska Central Express (ACE) — objected to Ravn resuming regular commercial operations during the DOT's "show cause order" window. The order opened up a 14-day period for anyone to show cause for the DOT not to find the air carrier "fit, willing, and able" to provide scheduled air service.
"They are working through the objections that were filed during the show cause period," said Ports Director Peggy McLaughlin at a City Council meeting Tuesday night. "There were two companies that objected and so USDOT is working on that. We don't have a timeline for regular scheduled service just yet. It's going to take them a minute to work through those objections."
Under Ravn's public charter service, the airline will be flying to Unalaska on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
McKinney said flying on Ravn's charter flights will look similar to flying on normal commercial flights, except that people won't be able to book online, and will have to call Ravn's reservation center.
He said for the general population, tickets will cost $649 or $549 to the island, depending on whether or not it's refundable, and Unalaskans will get a local discount.
"The really exciting part of what we have to offer is that if you have an ID with a local address on it, so if you're local to the Aleutian Islands, you will be able to get a $399 fare," he said.
Anyone flying on Ravn public charter flights will be allowed two free checked bags, regardless of residency.
The flights on the DeHavilland Dash 8 planes will likely make a stop in Cold Bay to refuel. McKinney has said in past interviews that Ravn is eventually moving towards using aircraft that don't require a refueling stop.
While McKinney said he was hoping to have the DOT's final approval by now, he is excited to finally offer reliable air service to Unalaska.
"But at the same time, I'm still frustrated that the situation is taking as long as it has," he said. "We started working on this in July, and here we are in November. So that part is still obviously frustrating, but I'm really, really happy to watch the first airplane take off and head your way this Friday."
To book a flight on Ravn's new public charter service, you can call the airline's reservation center at 833-418-2360, or visit the Ravn counter at Unalaska's airport for the local discount.
Ravn is still waiting on the DOT's final route authority approval to begin scheduled commercial flights, which McKinney said he expects to be awarded in the coming weeks.
Correction: a previous version of this story said Alaska residents will be allowed two free checked bags. And for non-residents, it will be $15 for the first bag and $25 for the second. Under public charter regulations, everyone will be allowed two free checked bags, regardless of residency.