A month after PenAir crash, Ravn to resume Unalaska flights, but travel headaches continue with reservations, miles

Ravn Air Group plans to restart Unalaska’s regular flights to and from Anchorage on Nov. 14, using DeHavilland Dash 8 aircraft instead of the Saab 2000. The Saab served the route between 2016 and a fatal plane crash on Oct. 17. (Laura

While regular flights are set to resume in tentatively this week, Unalaskans still have a lot of unanswered questions about flying to and from Anchorage.

Ravn Air Group announced late last week that it would restart daily service on Thursday, Nov. 14 — 28 days after suspending it in the wake of a fatal plane crash.

Read more about the fatal PenAir crash in Unalaska.

Ravn also said that it’ll be flying DeHavilland Dash 8 aircraft instead of the Saab 2000 through Dec. 24, as well as booking tickets through its own website instead of the Alaska Airlines site. Alaska has long sold Unalaska’s reservations through a marketing partnership.

It’s unclear what the new arrangement means for travelers with existing tickets, including local elementary school teacher Lucy Ortiz.

She said she booked her holiday vacation through Alaska Airlines in September. But following Ravn’s announcement, she bought a parallel ticket with Ravn — just in case. 

“I kind of panicked,” said Ortiz. “So currently, I have two tickets off the island for the exact same flight on the evening of Dec. 20. But I don’t even know if that’s going to work out in any way.”

Ortiz said Alaska Airlines’ customer service representatives have told her that existing Alaska tickets are still valid. Meanwhile, Ravn reps have said they’re not, telling her to cancel her original ticket and rebook through Ravn.

Neither Alaska Airlines nor Ravn spokespeople have responded to KUCB’s requests for clarification. They haven’t addressed how itineraries affected by cancelations or delays will be handled between the two airlines, either. 

It’s also unclear whether Ravn will continue marketing Unalaska’s flights after Dec. 24 — or whether Alaska Airlines’ mileage program will become eligible again at any point. 

To the first question, Ortiz said she hasn’t gotten a straight answer.

“I called Ravn to see if they had any new information about when we can book a return ticket, and they told me to ‘hope,'” she said. “They used the word ‘hope.’ They said to ‘hope’ I can come back. So I’m supposed to just leave, go on an international trip, and — fingers crossed — I’ll be able to make it back to the island?”

As for the second question, Ravn and Alaska Airlines previously said they were trying to work out an agreement that would allow travelers to use Alaska miles on Ravn-marketed flights to and from Unalaska. But the recent release from Ravn doesn’t mention the status of those negotiations

Instead, it encourages customers to “sign up for Ravn’s FlyAway Rewards program to begin accruing points immediately.”

Ortiz is hoping that’s just a short-term suggestion. She said she wants Alaska Airlines to transfer existing tickets to Ravn so she can cancel her extra Ravn reservation — and avoid paying cash when she planned to use miles. 

“I feel like when I bought that [Alaska Airlines] ticket, that was a promise that they would put forth that product,” she said. “If Alaska can’t do that, I don’t think just getting our miles back is a good enough answer. I paid 12,500 miles to leave the island and get to Ketchikan in September. Giving me those miles back now is not the same value.”

Laura Kraegel covers Unalaska and the Aleutian Islands for KUCB . Originally from Chicago, she first came to Alaska to work at KNOM, reporting on Nome and the Bering Strait Region. (laura@kucb.org / 907.581.6700)

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