RavnAir Group, which provides freight, mail and passenger air service to more than 115 communities in Alaska, is cutting their services by 90% in a dramatic effort to cut costs and address COVID-19-induced related revenue losses, the group announced in an emailed statement Thursday.
Starting Thursday, the group is reducing its flying operations by 90% and shrinking its fleet from 30 aircraft to three Dash 8s. The group will maintain service to their “essential air service communities,” which include Kenai, Homer, Valdez, King Salmon, Dillingham, St. Paul, Bethel, Aniak, St. Mary’s, McGrath and Unalakleet.
The company said they’ve seen a 90% drop in passenger bookings. Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a ban on in-state travel March 27, with an exception for workers maintaining essential infrastructure.
“For now, this will also mean that all aircraft will be parked at RavnAir Connect and all operations there will be stopped,” The statement said. “However, RavnAir Alaska Dash 8 flights will continue to operate.”
Both Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Alaska’s federal delegation — which includes Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska — made statements Thursday about the reduction in service to Alaska communities. Alaska’s federal delegation said they will work to ensure mail and goods can still be delivered to Alaska’s rural communities.
“The recent announcement made by RavnAir Group is very concerning news for Alaskans — especially for our remote communities,” a joint statement emailed from the Alaska delegation said. “We have worked hard to support federal programs like bypass mail and Essential Air Service, and we will continue to work to make sure that mail, as well as vital goods and services can continue to be delivered to rural Alaskan communities. There will undoubtedly be gaps, but Alaskans across the state are coming together to develop solutions. Alaskans are resilient and by working together, we will find a path forward.”
Dunleavy also said he’s in contact with the United States Postal Service to make sure mail is delivered to communities off the road system. “We want rural Alaskans to know the aviation industry is working cooperatively to ensure essential passenger service, bypass mail and freight service is maintained to their communities during these uncertain times,” Dunleavy said. “This morning I also spoke with officials from the United States Postal Service and they assured me they are working with contract carriers to maintain scheduled service to rural areas. The importance of the supply chain to rural Alaska communities is a priority for my administration.”
During a Thursday night press conference to address the COVID-19 outbreak, Dunleavy said that other airlines in Alaska will be stepping up to maintain freight, mail and passenger air services to the communities impacted by Ravn’s decision.
In the event someone from rural Alaska needs to be transferred to the hospital for complications with COVID-19, the state has readied “air ambulances, some private air carriers, Alaska National Guard and the United States Coast Guard” to transport seriously ill patients to suitable medical facilities, a March 30 press release from the state emergency operations center said.