Atka Residents Protest Flight Cancellations
Monday, June 24 2013
Flights to and from Atka have been cancelled for more than two weeks, and some passengers are starting to lose patience with Grant Aviation.
Although flights to the western Aleutian community are often delayed because of bad weather, the current hold-up is related to mechanical problems with the aircraft Grant Aviation uses to fly to Atka.
Resident Crystal Dushkin says it’s unacceptable that they haven’t brought in a replacement.
“The way I see it is, we’ve been waiting for 17 days for a flight. Why is it not possible to make another community wait one day while they make a flight to Atka with one of their planes? It’s probably not as simple as that, but I don’t see why not.”
Dushkin was originally scheduled to fly on June 10. She waited in Anchorage until Friday, and then flew to Unalaska with the understanding that flights were back up and running. When she found out they weren’t, she started a petition on Facebook, asking people to spread the word about Atka’s “flight plight,” as she deemed it. She says she’s never done that before -- even when PenAir was flying to Atka, and canceled 30 percent of all flights.
“If you’re asking ‘Why now? Why this time?’ -- I just want our people to not be swept aside anymore, because we’ve dealt with that for so long.”
The message appears to have gotten through. Grant Aviation’s corporate office didn’t return calls for comment, but the local station manager says the company is bringing out a plane Monday night to fly to Atka on Tuesday.
There are about half a dozen people stuck in Unalaska or Atka, not including those who have given up and cancelled their trips. The station manager wouldn’t provide information about the amount of mail and cargo waiting to head out to the community.
Grant Aviation has a contract with the federal Department of Transportation to provide air service to Atka. It's estimated at $840,000 a year, but the airline is only compensated for completed flights.