For the first time since its predecessor went bankrupt this April, Ravn Alaska is resuming regular scheduled service to Kenai and several other Alaska communities.
The airline is doing six flights a day from Kenai to Anchorage and six in the other direction. Starting Monday, Nov. 30, travelers could book seats on scheduled Ravn flights for $89 a ticket.
Ravn, which went bankrupt in April and was bought by FLOAT Shuttle, Inc. this summer, moved back into the Kenai airport earlier this month. But it was awaiting approval from the Department of Transportation before starting up scheduled service. In the interim, it was offering four charter flights a week to and from Kenai and six other Alaska communities.
Now, with DOT clearance in hand, Ravn can make its long-awaited return to 12 Alaska airports. But passengers weren’t necessarily rushing to get back on planes Monday.
“People are really still being smart and safe and flying if they only need to,” said Kenai Municipal Airport Manager Mary Bondurant. “It’s been consistently low. There’s just not a whole lot of traffic right now due to the epidemic.”
Prior to the pandemic and Ravn’s bankruptcy, Bondurant said there was often enough demand to fill 10 or 12 Ravn flights a day.
Still, passenger service is only one part of the work Ravn does, said Director of Marketing Richard Cole.
“I think the reality of aviation right now is, at least for the time being, fewer people are flying. But in Alaska, we see different needs than they do in the rest of the country,” Cole said. “Whether it be cargo, which is a big part of what our plan is.”
The company gets a significant portion of its revenue from cargo. Most moves on scheduled passenger flights but Ravn is also in the process of getting a Dash 8-100 specifically for freight.
“I would say cargo’s always been a pretty big part of what Ravn’s done, and I would say what our new strategy is is to emphasize it even more,” Cole said. “That we really want to make it an integral part of how we do business.”
Cole said that while the airline is still the largest regional carrier in the state, the new Ravn is somewhat smaller than the old one. He says the company hired back a lot of its previous employees when it resumed service.
In some communities, no Ravn meant no commercial air travel, at all, for several months. But in Kenai, Grant Aviation and Kenai Aviation filled in some gaps while Ravn was out of commission.
Grant, which has both scheduled and charter service, added Saturday flights to its roster and offered daily scheduled service out of the Kenai airport for the first time. Kenai Aviation, which does charters, started doing more flights out to Dutch Harbor and Prudhoe Bay in Ravn’s absence.