Alaska’s main rural air carrier shuts down, plans bankruptcy filing amid coronavirus losses

Just days after saying it would halt flights to most small communities in Alaska, RavnAir has suspended all flights and grounded all aircraft.

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A RavnAir Alaska flights boards at a near empty Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on March 27, 2020. (Yereth Rosen)

The air carrier that is the main transportation link for rural Alaska ceased all operations on Sunday and announced that it will seek bankruptcy protection.

The announcement by Anchorage-based RavnAir Group came three days after the Anchorage-based company grounded flights to all but 10 of the 115 communities it serves. All 72 of the company’s aircraft have been grounded and all employees have been laid off, Ravn said in a statement posted on its website.

[Communities scramble after Alaska’s main rural air carrier grounds nearly all flights]

The “unprecedented loss of 90 percent of passenger revenues, a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, made the cessation of operations necessary, Ravn said.

Losses were at all three of Ravn’s airlines — RavnAir Alaska and PenAir, which fly to larger hubs, and RavnAir Connect, which serves numerous smaller villages, including many Alaska Native communities.

Ravn said it is hoping to restart operations with financial assistance, including funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed by Congress.

Filing for bankruptcy “will allow the company to ‘hit pause’ and await word on its Federal CARES Act grant applications and other sources of financial assistance that will allow it to get through the Coronavirus crisis and successfully restart operations,” Ravn said in its statement. “ The company is also actively seeking private investment as well.”

Ravn said it is working with other carriers within Alaska to pick up some of the routes.

One of those carriers is Ryan Air, which has arranged with the North Slope Borough to serve the villages in northernmost Alaska.

Yute Commuter Service, based in the southwestern Alaska hub community of Bethel, has pledged to keep flying to its destinations. Yute serves villages in the mostly Yup’ik region.