The CEO of the new Ravn Alaska said Wednesday the airline would like to start flights on Kenai-Anchorage and Homer-Anchorage routes as early as possible in September.
“Even if you are frustrated with things that happened in the past with previous interactions with Ravn, we’d like you to give us a shot to earn your trust back and become your hometown airline,” new Ravn CEO Rob McKinney said. “It’s a new day at Ravn and we want to have a shot to earn everyone’s business.”
The RavnAir Group declared bankruptcy in April. In early July, some of the RavnAir Group’s assets were sold in a bankruptcy auction.
Six Dash 8s and a Saab 340 were not sold at bankruptcy auction. McKinney said a group of investors that will operate under the name Ravn Alaska acquired those seven planes and other assets in an $8 million deal that closed Friday.
“It’ll be the same aircraft and pretty much a similar schedule as you saw before,” McKinney said. “We hope to have a better dedication to customer service than Ravn had traditionally. We want to be a lot more customer-centric and friendly.”
Grant Aviation is currently flying the Kenai-Anchorage route, but Grant’s planes are smaller than those of Ravn Alaska, so the number of passengers at the Kenai Municipal Airport has been down.
McKinney said the new Ravn Alaska is still figuring out how many employees it will have, but the number will be about 400. According to a press release, the new Ravn Alaska will serve the Aleutian Chain, Bristol Bay, Prince William Sound, Kenai Peninsula, Norton Sound, Interior and Arctic Alaska.
McKinney said it’s too early to say precisely when service will begin because discussions with the Federal Aviation Administration are in the early stages.
“You never know when you’re dealing with the government,” McKinney said. “It’s pretty much the exact same people operating the airline as before so there should be no real bumps in the road.”
McKinney said the crucial difference with the new Ravn Alaska is the businesspeople are different. He said the employees in flight operations and maintenance — like pilots, mechanics, flight attendants and quality control inspectors — will be a lot of the same people.
“They were fine before,” McKinney said. “They were doing a good job running an on-time airline and making sure planes were safe. The problem was how customers were treated in their interaction with the company and how they were treated getting on and off the aircraft.”
The CEO said starting the airline during the new coronavirus pandemic is not ideal, but McKinney added that he doesn’t think all of the RavnAir Group’s bankruptcy can be blamed on the pandemic.
“I respectfully disagree COVID was the entire problem with the previous situation,” McKinney said. “They had enormous debt they were carrying.
“The new Ravn is starting out debt-free.”
The CEO said taking the right action with schedules and staff should help.
“We should be able to make sure we’re flexible enough and the right size while COVID is still with us and it’s an ongoing issue,” McKinney said. “We’ll be ready to scale up as soon as this thing turns the corner.”
The CEO said he understands some may have purchased tickets on the old Ravn that were never honored. He said the new Ravn Alaska is just now getting access to old reservation data. He said refunds will not be available. Previously purchased trips will be able to be used at a later date.
McKinney said the new Ravn Alaska has acquired the domain for ravnalaska.com and updates will be available there as to when flights will begin.
“The reaction’s been wonderful,” McKinney said. “Everybody is hoping we get started sooner rather than later. We want to make sure we do everything correctly and safely, but we’re pushing hard to get service established as quickly as we can.”