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Ravn Announces Unalaska Air Service Will Continue

Laura Kraegel/KUCB

RavnAir Group will continue serving Unalaska, with four scheduled flights a week, even as the coronavirus pandemic has forced it to end service to all but a handful of its 115 communities. 

"At this time, RavnAir Group intends to continue flights four times a week to Unalaska, with the potential for charter flights," Deb Reinwand, a RavnAir spokesperson, said in an emailed statement. 

The news comes after 24 hours of confusion about RavnAir's plans for Unalaska and Dutch Harbor, one of the country's biggest fishing ports.

Just after noon Thursday, Unalaska City Manager Erin Reinders received a phone call from RavnAir representatives saying that service to the community would be cancelled. Three hours later, the city issued a press release announcing that service would be discontinued. 

"I was contacted by Ravn officials yesterday and was notified that Ravn flights to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor from Anchorage would be discontinued," Reinders said Friday. "At that time, no dates were provided of when that discontinuation would begin."

Reinders said her understanding from the call was that discontinuation of service would be "imminent." 

"That's why I was called—that they were discontinuing," she said. She added that she received an email from RavnAir's chief executive that did not include Unalaska in a list of communities that would continue to have passenger service.

RavnAir Chief Commercial Officer Derek Shanks disagreed with Reinders' interpretation of Thursday's call.

"Those were private conversations with the City of Unalaska, but that’s not what was said," Shanks said. "Things are moving very, very quickly… Our schedule is out now, and we'll be flying four times a week to Unalaska."

He said he thought Unalaska's omission from the list of communities in the company's email was "just a mistake in the rush to try to get everything out."

RavnAir announced Thursday that it was cutting 90 percent of its flights across the state. The coronavirus pandemic has forced a steep reduction in air travel around Alaska, and the company has been adjusting its operations due to those losses.  

In a follow-up call with Reinders on Friday afternoon, she said RavnAir told her, earlier that day, that "four scheduled flights would continue."

"But the discontinuation of all the flights was a potential," she added. 

Shanks said that RavnAir plans to "commit to the schedule that we've got in place." But when pressed on how long service would continue for Unalaska, he noted that the company is now operating just a few planes. 

"We're serving a lot of communities at the moment with the three aircraft," he said.

Reinders said it appears RavnAir is trying to be "creative" in continuing service to Unalaska.

"And I appreciate that," she said. But, she added: "The uncertainty of it all certainly is confusing for everyone, and a little frustrating. There’s enough uncertainty in the world, and this is adding to it right now."

Caroline reported for KUCB in 2020.
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