Alaska Seaplanes’ Pilatus PC-12 will be used for routes between Petersburg and Juneau. It is a pressurized aircraft that can fly above the cloud level. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Seaplanes)

A new airline service is coming to Petersburg. Alaska Seaplanes has plans for daily round trip flights between Petersburg and Juneau starting April 5.

People can already book the flights, which include two daily round trip options between Petersburg and Juneau.

“We’ve had Petersburg in a long term plan for quite a while,” said Carl Ramseth, General Manager for Alaska Seaplanes. “Kind of slowed us down last year when the pandemic hit and we just feel like the time is right.”

There will be daily departures from Juneau to Petersburg at 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and departures from Petersburg back to Juneau at 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Flights cost $199 one way and take about 55 minutes. That’s about the same price as a last minute flight on Alaska Airlines and about twice as much as a ferry ride.

Ramseth says the schedule would offer more connections options for Petersburg residents. Take Petersburg and Sitka, for example. As the bird flies, the towns are just about 90 miles apart. But flying on Alaska Airlines, it takes seven or eight hours with a long layover in Juneau. Ramseth says that layover would be cut short with their flights.

“You could leave Sitka early enough in the morning and connect through Juneau with a short 15 minute to a half hour ground time in Juneau and connect right on to Petersburg. So, the total length of time actually be less than two and a half hours,” Ramseth said.

He says the same thing goes for Petersburg to Sitka.

For the route, the company plans to use two types of nine-passenger planes, a Pilatus PC-12 and a C-208 Cessna Grand Caravan. The planes are IFR certified as are all the pilots, meaning they can use instruments to navigate in the clouds.

“With the Pilatus, it’s a fully pressurized aircraft so you’re able to get a flight level between Juneau and Petersburg in the 16 to 20,000 foot range so generally you’re up above the clouds and out of the turbulence and the icing conditions and the things that make it difficult to fly in the winter.”

Another regional airline—Island Air—tried a similar service for Petersburg a few years ago. In 2018, they ran daily flights between Petersburg and Juneau but that venture lasted only nine months. Co-owner and Director of Operations, Scott Van Valin, told KFSK at the time that there was not enough passenger demand to continue those flights.

Ramseth says Alaska Seaplanes has a three-year plan for their new markets to give time for a new route to take off.

“We know that it could take a while to catch on,” said Ramseth. “It takes time to build a new route and we’re committed to putting that time in and not pull out because the ridership isn’t there.”

Alaska Seaplanes has seen growth in the last decade, adding several destinations including Sitka in 2014, Whitehorse in 2018, and Klawock on Prince of Wales in 2019. They have 15 aircraft and around 18 year round pilots. That grows to about 35 pilots in the summertime.

Besides regular passenger service they also run charter flights and move cargo.

In Petersburg, Alaska Seaplanes will be operating in the old Pacific Wings building at the airport. Ramseth says they are actively seeking a station manager in Petersburg and additional support staff.