Well, the jury’s still out. Much of the pre-bankruptcy air carrier is gone forever: the fleet of small planes with nine seats of less. Dozens of these planes were sold off to Ravn’s competitors, including Grant Aviation, Yute Commuter Service, Wright Air Service and ACE Air Cargo.
Some of the larger Dash-8 aircraft, with more than 30 seats each, were picked up by an outfit called “FLOAT Shuttle” out of southern California. Nat Herz did a good write-up HERE.
FLOAT isn’t an airline. Rather, the company offers a subscription service to allow commuters in California to fly over the traffic to a network of smaller airports. Subscriptions start at $1,250 per month.
FLOAT contracts with another air carrier called Southern Airways Express to fly the planes. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, FLOAT/Southern Airways Express is not operating any flights.
I spoke with Rob McKinney, COO of FLOAT Shuttle, who will be in charge of Ravn post-bankruptcy. McKinney used to be president of Seaport Airlines, which included Juneau-based Wings of Alaska. Neither airline exists today. He acknowledged that getting Ravn up and running to serve a limited schedule will be a long reach.
McKinney and his group bid $8 million in bankruptcy court for six of Ravn’s nine Dash-8s. He estimates it will take about 30 days to get FAA approval to operate a limited schedule.
There are many questions surrounding how McKinney and his group will serve destinations in Alaska. Which destinations? How often? McKinney said Ravn’s former president, Dave Pflieger, will stay on for an indefinite time to aid with the transition.
Before the bankruptcy/shutdown, Ravn Air (and sister airline PenAir) provided the only commercial air service to many communitues. For Dutch Harbor, Sand Point and St. Paul Island, there still is no scheduled passenger service to Anchorage. Since April 3, these communities have had to rely on expensive charter flights to get to or from Anchorage. Of course, there’s no road service. Ferry service to Dutch Harbor and Sand Point is infrequent and non-dependable (a joke, really).
For three of Ravn’s former destinations, Alaska Airlines has added new passenger flights: Cold Bay, King Salmon and Dillingham.
While Anchorage travelers watch with interest the twists and turns of Ravn’s new incarnation, communities in Bush Alaska are paying closer attention. Safe, dependable air transportation is vital for these communities, particularly for the huge multi-million-dollar fisheries industry.
Can Rob McKinney and his FLOAT group pull together the talent and the capital required to serve these important Alaskan communities? The bankruptcy judge doesn’t care. His job is done.
But Alaskans are keenly interested to see how the decisions in a Delaware courtroom will play out in Southwest Alaska.
So while the verdict may be in, the jury is still out.
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