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Ravn developing plan to offer jet flights to Lower 48 and Asia

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 6:34 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Ravn Alaska is looking to expand beyond the confines of the 49th state, with a plan to extend service to the Lower 48 and overseas.

Ravn CEO Rob McKinney said in a YouTube video this week that the airline is working on a plan for a separate brand called Northern Pacific Airways to provide service to Asia and several Lower 48 cities by acquiring around 10 additional aircraft.

The original video was published Monday and then made unavailable after being posted to social media on Tuesday. McKinney confirmed the video’s content in a Wednesday interview with Alaska’s News Source.

The plan would more utilize the North Terminal in the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. It calls for developing a “low-cost carrier model” using narrow-body Boeing 757 jets that Ravn would purchase. Flights would be offered to Tokyo and Seoul in Asia, and to Orlando, Las Vegas, the New York area, and Oakland and Ontario, California.

McKinney said Wednesday that, looking at the flight path of most airplanes traveling from Asia to the Lower 48, they’re not very far away from Anchorage.

“And when we see the entire North Terminal sitting there completely unused, it just occurs to us that if it’s not that far out of the way, we can reach more points,” McKinney said. “We can do it with a lower cost, and then people transitioning into the United States can clear customs and immigration here with maybe 150 other people versus standing in queues of hours and hours with thousands of other people.

“It really could be a desirable trip,” he added.

McKinney said Ravn looked to Icelandair, and the way that company did “such a good job turning Iceland into a connector between Europe and North America.”

“And we believe that Anchorage sits perfectly to be able to replicate that exact same model, to be able to connect Asia travelers with North America,” he said.

Ravn currently serves 13 Alaska communities, from Kenai and Homer on the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage, to more remote communities like Dutch Harbor, Aniak and Dillingham.

The airline’s core assets were sold after RavnAir Group filed for bankruptcy last year amid financial hardships worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. They were bought by the company FLOAT Shuttle, and under new ownership Ravn Alaska restarted limited statewide service with several Dash-8 planes.

For the distances Ravn would be looking to fly under this new endeavor, the 757 jets would have a capacity of no more than about 180 people, McKinney said.

He said the plan is in its early stages.

“I’m just now in the process of bringing the team together that’s going to really start working and digging into this, and has the technical expertise to pull this off,” McKinney said. “... It’s an idea right now.”

He said pursuing expanded service through Northern Pacific Airways wouldn’t affect Ravn or its current service to Alaskans.

“We’re firmly committed to our communities,” he said. “We really believe that we’re doing a great job taking care of them and we’re going to continue to do that.”

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