Cold Bay COVID-19 outbreak leaves Unalaska without flight service

A town on a cove as seen from above
A 2007 photo of the runway at Cold Bay. (Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Scheduled air service to Cold Bay is being cancelled through Dec. 1. That’s expected to also disrupt service to Unalaska, where the only commercial flight option requires a connection in the Alaska Peninsula village.

This is the first closure of its kind during the pandemic at any State of Alaska airport, according to Sam Dapcevich, a public information officer with the Alaska Department of Transportation.

Cancellations are due to an increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 in the small community of roughly 50 people, Dapcevich said. Over the last week, 11 residents have tested positive for the virus.

“We worked with local entities and we coordinated with airlines and decided that the safest path forward, at this point, is to cancel scheduled large air carrier service to Cold Bay Airport through Dec. 1,” Dapcevich said.

The airport is expected to remain open with reduced Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting capabilities, he added.

Unalaska City Manager Erin Reinders said DOT’s action specifically applies to Alaska Airlines’ jet service between Anchorage and Cold Bay. But, she said, Grant Aviation, which serves as a kind of “shuttle” between Unalaska and Cold Bay, has also cancelled service to the Alaska Peninsula village.

“It’s my understanding that both Alaska Airlines and Grant Aviation are coordinating with their current ticket holders, on either rescheduling their flights or reimbursing,” she said.

It’s startling to hear DOT would cancel flight service, Reinders added.

“But given the positive COVID cases in Cold Bay, it’s probably the most responsible move,” she said. “I’m not going to pretend to know all the details of what Cold Bay is experiencing, nor the decision making process that DOT went through, but it seems like the right move at this point.”

The department’s decision cancelled flights scheduled for last Wednesday, Nov. 25, and this coming Saturday. The airlines are expected to resume service next Wednesday, Dec. 2.

In the meantime, Reinders suggested Unalaskans look into some of the local charter flight options to get on and off the island.