Akutan Airport Receives Scheduled Service
Wednesday, November 21 2012
After months of uncertainty, Akutan’s new airport finally has scheduled service. Regional airlines have been operating charter flights to the $77 million airstrip since it opened in September, but a dispute over carrying the mail held up regular service. The mail dispute isn’t entirely settled, but the federal Department of Transportation awarded Grant Aviation a two-year Essential Air Service contract anyway.
In exchange for flying 12 flights per week, Grant will receive a $725,000 subsidy through June 2013, dropping to $580,000 after that. The reduced costs aren’t explained in the contract and no one at the DOT or Grant could be reached for comment. The subsidy is roughly on par with what PenAir was being paid to fly its World War II-era Grumman Goose to the community.
However, the contract does not deal with how passengers, mail, or cargo will get between the airport on uninhabited Akun Island and the village of Akutan. The Aleutians East Borough runs a hovercraft between the two islands, but the contract specifically states that Grant isn’t responsible for coordinating with the vessel. That appears to mean that passengers and shippers will need to pay the hovercraft directly for its services. The Postal Service, for one, is not happy with that arrangement. In written comments to the DOT, the Postal Service says it wasn’t involved in the decision to build an airport on Akun and therefore shouldn’t be responsible for paying the additional costs of shipping mail on the hovercraft. No one at the Postal Service could be reached for comment on whether they will pay for the service, despite their objections.
The order is effective immediately, but Grant hasn’t yet posted a schedule of service on their website.