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Aviation

Ravn Air delays restart of scheduled service to Unalaska until a month after fatal crash

Ravn Air Alaska says daily scheduled flights between Anchorage and the Aleutian Islands city of Unalaska won’t resume until mid-November.

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)

The company and Alaska Airlines suspended service to the plane-dependent city following the Oct. 17 crash of a Saab 2000 twin-engine turboprop that overran the runway, killing a Washington state man and injuring numerous passengers. Federal investigators are looking into the cause of the crash.

Unalaskans with travel plans or medical needs are running into a backlog of chartered seats to get out.

Ravn had said it planned to resume daily scheduled service this week.

“RavnAir Alaska continues to work through the necessary requirements it has established before the company can start new daily Dash-8 service to Unalaska,” the company said in a statement Wednesday. “Recent bad weather in the Dutch Harbor area caused multiple flight cancellations over the past few days, and these cancellations have delayed the start of new scheduled service until next Friday, November 15th.”

A Ravn spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to questions about how the cancellations factored into the resumption of service or the status of Federal Aviation Administration approval needed to start the route.

Alaska Airlines was selling up to three trips a day to Unalaska using the Saab 2000, a flight marketed as a PenAir trip but operated by Ravn Air Group subsidiary Peninsula Aviation Services. Alaska Airlines has canceled flights through at least Nov. 20.

Numerous charter services are flying passengers between Anchorage and Unalaska, including Ravn, which can provide charters even as it waits for approval of commercial flights because different federal restrictions apply to the two types of passenger service.

The city of Unalaska received federal approval to start publicly chartered flights, at least three a week, to provide an alternative for Unalaskans struggling with the complicated process of booking seats on chartered aircraft. Outbound flights were filling with fishermen and processing plant workers as the king crab season ended.

The city chose to charter with Ravn, at a cost of $600 a seat one-way. Officials declared a local emergency over the lack of service, then appropriated more than $350,000 to pay for charters, according to a report from KUCB.

No animals are allowed on the public charters, according to the contract.

Weather forced cancellation of the city’s charters Monday. Additional charters were scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, as well as more on Monday, Nov. 11. The city is keeping an updated list of flights on its website. To make reservations or for updated flight information call the RavnAir reservation line at 907-266-8394 or 1-800-866-8394.

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