UPDATE: Smaller airlines to 'fill the gap' after RavnAir Group flight reductions
Smaller airlines will increase their routes to remote Alaskan communities otherwise served by RavnAir Group, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Thursday.
Companies like Ryan Air, Bering Air, Inc., Northern Air Cargo and others confirmed they are working to keep freight and bypass mail services operational.
"For much of Ravn’s service area there are other carriers providing those essential services," said Ryan Air President Lee Ryan. “It’s not competition right now — it’s to ensure the survivability and sustainability of our rural communities.”
"We will continue to provide freight and mail schedules to our service area: Nome, Kotzebue and Unalakleet," said Bering Air Director of Operations David Olson. "Bering Air continues to provide medivac service for the Bering Straits region."
“We are committed to keeping the supply chains open in rural Alaska," said Northern Air Cargo General Manager Gideon Garcia. "Our friends at Ravn, our heart goes out to them.”
Lee Ryan said airlines are forming a plan to ensure places like Utqiagvik do not experience interruptions. He said there may be a short delay of essential services to the community but "it's not going to be anything substantial."
In the event of service delays Ryan said stores should be in close contact with shipment companies and individuals should call their local airlines.
RavnAir Group announced it will be reducing its flying operations by 90 percent and shrinking its operating fleet from 30 aircraft to three, effective April 2, 2020.
"This is in response to the dramatic and continuing 90% reduction is passenger revenue bookings resulting from the COVID-19 coronavirus," a statement from the airline said.
The three aircraft still operational will be Dash 8's.
The company will maintain service to its Essential Air Service communities and continue flights to the other markets it currently serves with these aircraft, which includes Homer, Kenai, Valdez, King Salmon, Dillingham, St. Paul, Bethel, Aniak, St. Mary's, McGrath, and Unalakleet.
The statement goes on to say that all aircraft will be parked at RavnAir Connect and all operations there will be stopped. However, RavnAir Dash 8 flights will continue to operate.
Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a statement, saying "We want rural Alaskans to know the aviation industry is working cooperatively to ensure essential passenger service, bypass mail, and freight service is maintained to their communities during these uncertain times."
Dunleavy went on to say that he spoke with officials from the United States Postal Service and he was assured they are working with contract carriers to maintain scheduled service to rural areas.
The United States Postal Service released a statement as well, saying they were currently evaluating their transportation options to ensure a continuity of mail operations to Alaska's communities.
"We understand the importance of mail to these communities and are quickly working with other providers to fill the gap," Alaska District Manager Ron Haberman said.
The Alaska Congressional Delegation also released a statement in response to the news RavnAir is slashing 90% of its flights.
"“The recent announcement made by RavnAir Group is very concerning news for Alaskans—especially for our remote communities. We have worked hard to support federal programs like bypass mail and Essential Air Service, and we will continue to work to make sure that mail, as well as vital goods and services can continue to be delivered to rural Alaskan communities. There will undoubtedly be gaps, but Alaskans across the state are coming together to develop solutions,” said the Alaska Congressional Delegation. “Alaskans are resilient and by working together, we will find a path forward.”