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Weather cancels both flights on Unalaska’s first day of public charters to help stranded residents

Unalaska is chartering planes to get residents between the Aleutian Islands city and Anchorage until commercial air service can be restored.

A Penair plane that flew from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor, pictured off the runway at the Unalaska-Dutch Harbor airport on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (Jennifer Wynn)

Flights were scheduled to begin Monday after the U.S Department of Transportation approved the city’s request to operate public charters of RavnAir Alaska aircraft. The city planned to offer flights at $600 a seat one-way between Anchorage and Unalaska three days a week until regularly scheduled air service resumes, according to a public notice.

Both flights Monday were cancelled by weather, according to deputy city clerk Roxanna Winters, who said the weather outside her window was gray and windy with “constant rain” and low visibility.

Regular flights between Anchorage and Unalaska were suspended in the aftermath of a fatal plane crash on Oct. 17 that killed a Washington state man and injured numerous other passengers. The Saab 2000 twin-engine turboprop overran the runway. The flight was operated by Ravn Air Group and sold by Alaska Airlines.

The cessation of regular service left travelers stranded or scrambling for charter flights as seats filled with Bering Sea crabbers and processing plant workers.

The city decided to use Ravn for the public charters because of the carrier’s number and frequency of flights, the company’s support for booking reservations, and 29-seat Dash 8 planes in the fleet, Winters said.

“The city’s priority was to facilitate community members wanting to travel on and off island, so the size of the plane was a factor," she said.

Alaska Airlines, which marketed up to three scheduled daily flights, has canceled trips through Nov. 20.

Ravn has announced plans to start a new route between Anchorage and Unalaska this week with a de Havilland Dash 8 turboprop once approval comes from the Federal Aviation Administration. Asked for an update Monday, a Ravn spokeswoman said the carrier will make an announcement about the route once approval comes.

The city of Unalaska is accepting reservations for morning and evening flights Monday and Wednesday, with more flights possible. An updated list of flights is on the city website. To make a reservation, call 907-266-8394 or 1-800-866-8394.

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