Ravn Alaska takes tourists all over the state despite occasionally tough conditions. // © 2016 Ravn Alaska
Over the last 18 months, Ravn Alaska has evolved into an important, if sometimes overlooked, player in the state’s air transport and tourism industry, and it’s a company that savvy agents will want to get to know better.
Formerly known and operating as Era Alaska, the company changed its name in 2014 to Ravn Alaska and Ravn Connect. Today, Ravn is the result of mergers with Frontier Flying Service, Era Helicopters, Merric Helicopters, Era Aviation, Jet Alaska, Hageland Aviation Services, Cape Smythe, Circle Air Services and Corvus Airlines. The airline received a cash infusion in July 2015, when private equity firm J.F. Lehman & Company acquired a majority stake in Ravn Air Group. The acquisition helped solidify the airline’s position in existing and new Alaska markets and allowed Ravn to better match aircraft to specific routes and implement enhanced safety protocols.
“Ravn Alaska and Ravn Connect is the largest regional airline in Alaska and employs more than 900 professionals,” said Michael N. Wien, the company’s vice president of marketing and sales. “As a codeshare partner with Alaska Airlines, Ravn handles day-to-day passenger, charter and cargo needs to more than 100 Alaska communities, with connecting flights to the major hubs of Anchorage, Fairbanks and Kodiak.”
According to Wien, the company transports domestic and international visitors to villages and cities all over Alaska.
“We transport passengers who want to view polar bears at Kaktovik/Barter Island, haul adventure skiers and boarders to Valdez or charter aircraft for private tour groups to Alaska destinations,” Wien said. “All this occurs on top of daily, scheduled flights throughout the state.”
Ravn serves remote destinations that often have nothing more than gravel airstrips with no enclosed passenger terminals. Its pilots are trained for tough flying conditions, often in below-zero weather. Aircraft are best matched for runways and regional flying conditions and include Cessna 207s and 208s, Beech 1900s and Dash-8-100s.
Wien says the airline recently added two new Cessna Caravans to its fleet, operated by Ravn Connect/Hageland Aviation, which supports daily scheduled and chartered flights to and from Bethel and its surrounding communities.
The two new aircraft include state-of-the-art avionics and improved de-icing systems and will adhere to the Ravn Connect/Hageland Safety Operational Dispatch Control Center procedures. This center, based in Palmer, is the first of its kind in Alaska. It communicates with each pilot prior to every flight, and the center’s dispatcher and the pilot must agree that the flight is safe to operate from takeoff to touchdown.
Wien says Ravn can assist agents with individual as well as private group travel around the state.
Passengers accrue Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles on select Ravn flights.
Helpful Tips for Clients
Ravn is an Alaska regional airline, subject to a few unique restrictions that clients should know prior to travel.
Many villages do not permit alcohol, nor are aircraft or individuals allowed to transport alcoholic beverages to these villages. Advise clients who carry their own beverages to contact Ravn Alaska customer service for details.
Flights may leave on time, but Ravn flights can also leave early, so advise your clients to arrive at the airport about one hour before the scheduled flight time or to contact the local Ravn agent or hub office for departure information. The local village agent will be checking in clients and providing them with updates on their return flight.
Some remote villages do not have terminal facilities for passengers to take shelter from rain, wind or snow. Have clients dress for inclement weather conditions or mosquitoes, which can be a nuisance in midsummer on select landing strips with no wind. Bug suits work well.
Cellphone service is often extremely limited in select destinations. Advise first-time clients that assistance is available but may not be obvious. Oftentimes, an agent for Ravn Alaska won’t be readily identifiable. In this scenario, passengers should ask a local resident or pilot for details on how to contact the local Ravn representative.
Ravn allows two checked bags of 50 pounds, one carry-on bag and a personal item, a rarity when compared to past years, when select Alaska flying services charged for bags on a per-pound basis.