Ravn Alaska and the Kenai Municipal Airport confirmed Friday that the airline will discontinue its Kenai service starting later this month, with the last flights scheduled for Oct. 20.
The confirmation came a day after a post on Facebook was shared to various groups that read “As of Oct. 20, Ravn will no longer be flying to Kenai.”
That night, ticket sales for flights to and from Kenai were already unavailable after that date, with a prompt reading “No flights from (Kenai) to (Anchorage) on Oct. 21st.” The same message could be seen for every day following.
On Friday, the Clarion called Ravn Alaska’s general phone number after multiple requests for comment on Thursday and Friday were left unanswered. A representative of Ravn Alaska reached by phone spoke to the Clarion and read a prepared statement that said the move to cease operations in Kenai was an “operational consideration” that was “not made lightly.” It said that the demand for air travel in the Kenai market has declined and become “financially unsustainable.”
The statement ended with an expression of gratitude to residents for their support “over the years,” and said that they hope residents will continue to make use of their service in other areas of the state.
Information provided Friday by Interim Kenai Airport Manager Mary Bondurant showed that enplanements, the number of times people boarded flights at the airport, had sharply fallen in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but have climbed year over year since then.
In 2019, the Kenai Airport had seen around 95,000 enplanements, which was up 3% over 2018. When the pandemic began, that number fell all the way to around 32,000, but since climbed to around 68,000 in 2021 and 73,000 in 2022.
As of September, this year there have been around 55,000 enplanements at the airport.
Bondurant wrote that the airport will continue to have two scheduled airlines operating between Kenai and Anchorage in Grant Aviation and Kenai Aviation.
She said her successor will be working with Kenai’s city manager and city attorney to review the Airline Operating Agreement and “determine how this decision by Ravn will affect the Airport.”
In August 2020, then-new CEO Rob McKinney said that COVID-19 wasn’t the only thing that forced the company into bankruptcy. He said that the new Ravn would be “a lot more customer-centric and friendly.”
Ravn described financial pressures last year. In September of 2022, Ravn Chief Commercial Officer Tina Hanley said that fuel costs had doubled and that labor costs had increased “60%.” That was the motivation, she said, behind introducing standard bag fees where previously they had been waived for Alaska residents with up to two bags.
Other than the prepared statement read by an operator at Ravn Alaska’s listed phone number, Ravn did not comment when reached multiple times ahead of publication.
For more information about Ravn Alaska, visit ravnalaska.com
Reach reporter Jake Dye at email@example.com.