Around this time last year, it looked like Adak’s jet service was in jeopardy. Alaska Airlines wanted to stop flying there, and it was only after much back and forth that they conceded to continue serving the community, on a trial basis.
Now, the uncertainty appears to be over. Alaska Airlines was the only company that responded to a recent request from the federal Department of Transportation for bids on the community’s Essential Air Service contract, and they’ve agreed to commit for two years.
Marilyn Romano is the airline’s regional vice president. She says Alaska decided to bid even after the news that Icicle Seafoods would be shuttering its processing plant on the island because other companies — and industries — are poised to make up some of the traffic.
“None of us can predict the future, but people in the community of Adak feel like there are some possibilities for growth, possibly even in the oil industry, and so we take all of that into consideration when making a decision,” Romano says.
But Alaska Airlines’ commitment to Adak in the face of an uncertain future will come at a cost. The company is asking the federal government to increase their subsidy for the route by half a million dollars, for a total of $2 million a year. Romano says that factors in the loss of passenger and cargo revenues from the processing plant, and potential increases in the price of jet fuel.
For its part, Adak appears to be fully in support of Alaska Airlines’ proposal. City manager Layton Lockett says continued jet service is critical to the community’s development, a sentiment that fish buyer Pete Hartman echoes in a letter to the DOT. His company, Hart Sales, started shipping fresh fish off the island after Icicle’s closure, and he writes “without the Jet services of Alaska Airlines to the lower 48 markets I will have to cease our operation.”
The DOT will review the bid and is expected to make a decision about whether to award the contract in the coming weeks.