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Feds Weigh Proposals To Restore Unalaska's Direct Air Link To Anchorage

Laura Kraegel/KUCB

Two airlines are vying to resume direct flights connecting Unalaska with Anchorage. Servant Air and Float Alaska have each made filings stating they would like to fill the gap left by Ravn which filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. 

Servant Air has asked for a $2,890,087 subsidy for the route. The Kodiak-based airline promises 10 round-trips weekly between Unalaska and Anchorage and an additional 20 round-trips between Unalaska and its Kodiak hub, which has a hospital, Wal-Mart and regular connections with Alaska Airlines.

The airline says it would use King Air 350 aircraft and supplement with larger aircraft as necessary to meet demand. Servant Air's proposal says a one-way ticket from Unalaska to Kodiak would cost $195 and a one-way ticket from Unalaska to Anchorage would cost $375. The airline notes in its filing that it's been operating in Alaska for nearly 30 years.

Float Alaska is tied to Float Shuttle, a relatively new Southern California-based commuter airline that purchased Ravn's core assets in a bankruptcy auction this summer. The company says it intends to resume flying some of Ravn's hub routes next month.

Float Alaska's one paragraph proposal to service Unalaska doesn't ask for any federal money. It promises "subsidy free service to Dutch Harbor/Unalaska meeting or exceeding minimum service levels" with Dash-8 aircraft. It did not provide any details on cost or frequency of flights if it were selected.

Unalaska has been without regularly scheduled commercial flights to Anchorage since April when RavnAir Group declared bankruptcy and grounded their entire fleet. That prompted the Unalaska City Council on April 28 to ask the U.S. Department of Transportation to start the process to bring essential air service to Unalaska.

Unalaska Mayor Vince Tutiakoff Sr. says elected officials have an important role to play.

"If we as a community or a city like one of the airlines that are out there, we can have an impact on the decision with DOT," Tutiakoff said.

The City of Unalaska has submitted a comment stressing Unalaska needs "direct, safe, reliable, and affordable" flights, but they do not indicate a strong preference for carriers. Their letter does raise concern about Servant Air's ability to meet community demand with the smaller King Air 350 aircraft.

Tuesday is the last day to comment on the two proposals. It's unclear when federal transportation authorities will announce their decision.

Currently all commercial air service to Unalaska is routed through the airport at Cold Bay.

Zoë Sobel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2019. She returned to KUCB after a year living in Nepal and Malaysia as a Luce Scholar. She then returned to KUCB as a ProPublica reporter August of 2020 through August of 2021.
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