Era Alaska announced Monday that effective Feb. 18, the carrier will no longer provide regularly-scheduled air service to the Prince William Sound community of Cordova, at least for the winter months.
Unlike some other Alaska communities that have seen turbulence in their air service in the last year -- including the remote villages of King Cove and Akutan -- Cordova has other transportation options available to its residents. That means they won't be stranded in Cordova, which has no road access, in the wake of Era's decision.
It's still a pretty big move, though -- Era Marketing Director Steve Smith described the Anchorage-Cordova route as one of the companies "mainline" routes, along with other Southcentral Alaska locales like Valdez and Homer. But a lack of passengers and cargo made the route unfeasible.
"We've been looking at it for a while and kind of analyzing the market, hoping it would improve, but in the wintertime, the traffic just isn't there," Smith said.
Era was also competing with the much larger Alaska Airlines, which has daily jet service to Cordova and several other nearby communities, like Yakutat and Gustavus. Alaska Airlines also receives subsidies to service those locations -- including more than $2.1 million annually to provide regularly scheduled flights in and out of Cordova.
Cordova Mayor Jim Kallander said that Era's announcement came as a bit of a surprise, but it wouldn't be a huge blow to the community thanks to the Alaska Airlines service, which he said most residents use anyway.
"We also have a very inexpensive winter ferry service four to five days a week that pretty soon will be 7 days a week," Kallander said. "It's less expensive to go on the ferry with your car than it is to fly on the airline, anyway."
He added that the dynamic will likely shift in the summer, when the ferry prices will increase and Era will return for the busier tourist season. Era is expected to resume service beginning in May, and continue until October.
In the end, Kallander said there likely won't be any hard feelings about the loss of Era's service to the community.
"I think everybody was a little surprised, but at the same time I think most people are understanding. We can't force someone to come in here if they can't make any money doing it," Kallander said.
Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com