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'You're Never Going To See The Ravn Of Before;' New CEO Working To Build More Trustworthy Airline

Ravn Alaska photo

Ravn Alaska is adding another Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta hub to its list of destinations. The airline will begin flying to St. Mary’s on the lower Yukon River in a few weeks. 

The exact date is not yet set, but Ravn’s first flight to St. Mary’s is targeted for March. Ravn CEO Rob McKinney said that flights to St. Mary’s will route from Anchorage through Aniak to St. Mary’s, and back to Anchorage.

“In the beginning, it'll probably be two a week. And then we're hoping to flex up to five or six a week in St. Mary's as the summer draws near," McKinney said.

Ravn resumed flights to Aniak on Feb. 26, making it the airline’s 11th destination and the first Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta community where Ravn has returned service. Last year, the company went through bankruptcy and has since entered new ownership.

Though Ravn is returning flights to the region, it is not yet returning jobs. Ravn sold most of its assets as part of the bankruptcy, including its facilities in Aniak and St. Mary’s. Ryan Air bought those facilities and will be handling Ravn’s on-the-ground flight operations in those hubs. McKinney said that the company could add jobs as the airline expands in the region.

The former Ravn that went bankrupt had built a reputation of unreliable service and numerous plane crashes, some of them fatal. McKinney said that he and his partner are working to build a company that customers can trust.

“The Ravn that you see now, although it’s the same name and the same logo, is a far different company than it was before," McKinney said.

All employees have undergone customer service training, pilots underwent flight training, the airline is limiting seats to prevent bags being bumped, the staff meets weekly about safety. This new Ravn is smaller and more specialized. The Ravn of before was an overarching brand encompassing five different air carriers under different managements flying different types of planes.

“Today’s Ravn has one type of airplane, and one air carrier certificate, and one seamless management," McKinney said.

That one type of plane is a Dash-8. Another difference is that whereas the Ravn of before flew to most Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta communities, the new Ravn will likely only fly to the larger hubs.

“You're never going to see the Ravn of before where they were trying to go into every community and do so many different kinds of flying, because I think that that just spreads focus too thin,” McKinney said.

The airline is honoring unused tickets purchased before the bankruptcy, but not frequent flyer miles. McKinney said that the new Ravn was not given access to the old Ravn’s system for tracking those miles.

One thing will say the same with this new Ravn airline: customers will still get a big, complimentary cookie on flights.

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