Regional air carriers are a critical part of Alaska’s transportation infrastructure

For jet flights from Anchorage, the first stop at the airport is the check-in kiosk. Then, it’s off to the TSA line.

But those jet flights are just half of the story for Anchorage travelers. The entire A concourse at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport as well as the L gates downstairs near the baggage claim are reserved for smaller carriers that go to many destinations around the state.

Air carriers come and go. Some familiar names are gone, but not forgotten, including Era Alaska, Reeve Aleutian Air, Markair … even Wien Air Alaska. Many of the destinations, and a whole lot more, are served by carriers that fly out of the A and L gates. Further, several air carriers fly out of other terminals, or out of Anchorage’s downtown airport at Merrill Field.

I boarded an early flight on a recent morning from Anchorage to Kenai. But the 7 a.m. flight time was not the first flight of the day.

Kenai Aviation’s first flight of the day is at 4 a.m. from Kenai to Anchorage. The nine-seat Tecnam 2012 aircraft then turns around and flies south at 5 a.m.

Kenai Aviation recently acquired a third aircraft. “That enables us to fly two planes on the route between Anchorage and Kenai, using the third plane as a spare,” said company founder Joel Caldwell.

The Tecnam aircraft is a wing-over twin-engine plane made in Italy.


Grant Aviation dedicates four Cessna 208s to the Anchorage-Kenai route, according to Dan Knesek, the company’s vice president. “During the peak summer season, we offer 36 flights a day between Anchorage and Kenai,” he said.

Grant’s first southbound flight of the day leaves Anchorage at 4:30 a.m. for Kenai.

Kenai is Grant’s only destination out of Anchorage, although the carrier operates an extensive network in Southwest Alaska.

Grant Aviation and Kenai Aviation both are part 135 air carriers, which means they are limited to nine passengers per flight. Since Ravn Alaska pulled out of the Anchorage-Kenai market, all flights are on the smaller nine-seat planes.

Ravn Alaska still flies to Homer, though. They also fly to Valdez, Dutch Harbor, Sand Point, Cold Bay, St. Paul Island, St. Mary’s and Unalakleet. All of Ravn’s flights are on the de Havilland Dash 8, which holds up to 37 passengers.

[Make the most of warm summer days and get out to Kachemak Bay, Resurrection Bay and Prince William Sound]

Aleutian Airways flies a larger plane, the Saab 2000, configured for 41-50 passengers. From Anchorage, the carrier flies to Sand Point, Dutch Harbor, King Salmon and Cold Bay.

Both Ravn Alaska and Aleutian Airways are part 121 carriers like Alaska Airlines. That means they can carry more than nine passengers per flight — but must adhere to stricter safety protocols.

Up until March, Aleutian Airways flew between Anchorage and Homer. The airline had planned to continue flights through the summer. But the state of Alaska’s runway repaving program stopped that plan. As the runway was being repaved in sections, it was too narrow to accommodate Aleutian Airways’ larger aircraft. So, Ravn Alaska now provides the only air service.

Ryan Air has a large air cargo and freight operation in Western Alaska. But the carrier also offers scheduled flights between Anchorage and Aniak, aboard a Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.

The PC-12 is a popular aircraft for part 135 carriers. It’s a powerful plane with a pressurized cabin. Alaska Air Transit has a fleet of four of these aircraft. The carrier offers flights from its hangar at Merrill Field to Tatitlek and Chenega in Prince William Sound. Alaska Air Transit also serves two destinations along the Kuskokwim River: Takotna and Nikolai.

McGrath is between Takotna and Nikolai on the Kuskokwim. Reeve Air flies nonstop from Anchorage to McGrath five days a week (Monday-Friday). Reeve also flies twice each week between Anchorage and Glennallen. Reeve operates from a hangar on the shores of Lake Hood — not from the main terminal.

In Western Alaska, Lake and Peninsula Airways flies from Merrill Field to Port Alsworth, connecting with several villages in the area, including Nondalton, Iliamna, Pedro Bay, Igiugig and Kokhanok. Lake and Pen Air flies Cessna 208s on the routes.

Iliamna Air Taxi also flies to many of these destinations via scheduled flights from Anchorage to Iliamna. The carrier flies a pressurized PC-12 on the route.

Each transportation hub has its own collection of air carriers to fly travelers, mail and freight to villages around the state.

From Fairbanks, Everts, Wright Air Service and Warbelows fly up and down the Yukon and Tanana River Valleys.

From Nome and Kotzebue, Bering Air has an extensive network from Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island to Point Lay along the Arctic coast.


In Bethel, both Grant Aviation and Yute Air Taxi offer flights to more than 50 villages.

Down in Southeast Alaska, Alaska Seaplanes has developed an extensive network from Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan to smaller towns up and down the Inside Passage.

The extensive network of smaller, regional carriers is an essential part of Alaska’s transportation infrastructure.

[Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Ravn Alaska and Aleutian Airways are part 121 carriers, not part 131 carriers. The name of the carrier Alaska Air Transit has also been corrected.]

Scott McMurren

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at Subscribe to his e-newsletter at For more information, visit