Three regional airlines in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta bought some of Ravn Air Group’s planes during an auction earlier this month. One of the airlines says that they are preparing to expand services in the region once the pandemic ends.
Grant Aviation Vice President of Operations Dan Knesek says that Grant is focusing on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta for now.
"We do not have any plans of expanding any other hubs like, you know, Nome, Kotzebue or anything like that. We're planning on focusing on on the people of lower Yukon, Y-K Delta," Knesek said.
Knesek said that Ravn Air Group’s bankruptcy means that regional airlines left in the area have to pick up the slack once the pandemic is over.
"We ended up buying basically all of the real estate that Ravn owned in Bethel, with the exception of the former Yute Air hangar," Knesek said.
At an auction earlier this month, Grant bought 10 Cessna 208 Caravans, and five Cessna 207 airplanes that Ravn once owned. The coronavirus pandemic slashed the number of Grant passengers by 90%, which is Grant’s main source of revenue. But when Ravn, which suffered similar passenger loss, declared bankruptcy and abruptly shut down in March, that left a big hole in mail and passenger service for Y-K Delta communities.
Three airlines took over Ravn’s mail and passenger routes in the Y-K Delta, including Grant, which helped alleviate some of the financial pinch. Grant’s Knesek said that passenger service has slowly picked up since March, and they’ve added more flights for some communities.
"Some of those flights have been filling up in the meantime, or whatnot. And so we've had a couple extra second [flights], but by no means are we back to a normal schedule," Knesek said.
Meanwhile, Grant Aviation did apply for federal CARES Act funding. That was enough to make up some revenue loss from the lack of passengers, and they were able to employ locals who lost their Ravn jobs.
"So by utilizing the extra mail received from the Ravn bankruptcy and the CARES funding it, now it did not fill the hole of the loss of passenger revenue. But it mitigated enough that we were able to still ensure that we were able to get the mail, the medicines and everything, and fulfill the needs of our entire route structure from the lower Yukon, like the Delta, Bristol Bay, Alaska peninsula, and into the Aleutian chain," Knesek said.
Even so, the pandemic drags on with no end in sight. Knesek says that it’s hard to predict how that will impact his business months from now, but he says he takes heart in the small number of cases in Alaska compared to the rest of the United States.