New Airline to Serve Atka, Nikolski
Thursday, May 24 2012
A new airline is entering the Aleutian market. Starting this summer, Anchorage-based Grant Aviation will be flying to Atka and Nikolski as part of the federal government’s Essential Air Service program. The federal EAS program compensates airlines for flying to remote communities where it would otherwise be unprofitable.
Atka city administrator Julie Dirks says the community is thrilled about the new air service.
“We were concerned that no one would submit a bid and that things would just go on as they have been.”
PenAir has been flying the Atka and Nikolski routes for more than a decade, but didn’t bid on the contract this time around, citing a lack of appropriate aircraft. In 2011, the airline completed only half of its scheduled flights to Nikolski and two-thirds to Atka.
Dirks hopes Grant can do better than that.
“With having a plane there full time and a pilot dedicated to just doing Atka and Nikolski, it has to improve the service.”
Grant will be staging a 9-seat King Air 200 airplane in Unalaska. In exchange for flying the plane three times a week to Atka and two to Nikolski, Grant will receive a subsidy of $1.2 million dollars each year for the next two year. That’s roughly $250,000 more than the subsidy PenAir is currently receiving to fly the same routes.
The only other airline that submitted a bid for the routes was Kodiak-based Servant Air. That airline proposed using the same 9-seat aircraft, but requested a significantly higher subsidy. The Department of Transportation said the decision to choose Grant was based on that factor and community support for their proposal.
Grant couldn’t be reached for comment. They take over the routes on July 1 September 1.