Alaska Seaplanes to close Petersburg and Wrangell locations

a plane
Alaska Seaplanes’ C-208 Grand Caravan is a nine passenger plane that was used on routes between Petersburg and Juneau. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Seaplanes)

Alaska Seaplanes announced on Wednesday that it will close its Petersburg and Wrangell locations at the end of the month. Alaska Seaplanes is the only commuter airline service in competition with Alaska Airlines in Southeast Alaska.

General Manager Carl Ramseth says the decision did not come lightly.

“It was the difficult decision that came, it came after much deliberation — months and months of deliberation,” he said. “[I] think this is probably the hardest decision I’ve been involved in personally in my 30-plus years of aviation and Southeast. It just was not our plan to leave.”

The closure will take effect for passengers on Oct. 31 and for cargo on Oct. 28.

The airline offers twice-daily flights between Petersburg and Juneau, which allow residents to take day trips to the capital. Those will end, along with the triangular flights that connect Sitka, Wrangell and Petersburg three times a week.

Alaska Seaplanes began serving Petersburg in April of 2021 and Wrangell in May of 2022. Ramseth says that when Seaplanes starts serving a community, they have a three-year plan to allow time to build up a presence in the town. This is only the second time Seaplanes has pulled out of a community before that three-year period is up.

“With Wrangell and Petersburg, it’s just bottom line, the traffic and the ridership didn’t grow as we’d hoped,” said Ramseth.

But low ridership isn’t the only factor. Alaska Seaplanes also rely on carrying cargo. That brings in more business in smaller communities like Tenakee Springs and Klawock because they are not serviced by Alaska Airlines. Ramseth says that isn’t true for Wrangell and Petersburg.

“One challenge that Wrangell and Petersburg have compared to most of our other communities is that we don’t carry any mail or UPS, and we don’t have so much cargo into those communities,” he said. “So that affects the bottom line too.” 

Seaplanes has two part-time employees in Wrangell. Petersburg has one full-time and two part-time workers. All were informed of the closure last week. Ramseth says that while there are jobs with the company for them in other communities, all employees want to stay where they are.

The closure is indefinite, although Ramseth says he would love to be able to serve Wrangell and Petersburg again in the future if factors change.

Alaska Seaplanes isn’t the first commuter airline service to call it quits after a short stint in central Southeast. Island Air ended its Petersburg to Juneau flights after just nine months in 2018. Scott Van Valin, co-owner and director of operations, told KFSK at the time that there was not enough passenger demand on those flights.

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