A new daily airline connection between Juneau and Petersburg started up Monday. Alaska Seaplanes is flying its nine-passenger planes twice a day into James A. Johnson Airport and held a ribbon cutting ceremony there to mark the start of that service.
Shortly after the first flight landed, staff and community members crowded into the Alaska Seaplanes office for cake and a ribbon cutting.
Their office is in the former site of Pacific Wings, which closed last year. Alaska Seaplanes offers commuter service from its hub in Juneau to communities around Southeast along with Whitehorse in the Yukon.
Company co-owner Mike Stedman noted his family’s long ties to Petersburg.
“So it’s real special like I say for us to start service to Petersburg and help connect the communities of Southeast here,” Stedman said. “You know we’ve had a lot of people ask us over the years, when are we going to start going to Petersburg, when are you going to start going to Wrangell. Here we are, first day, first flight into Petersburg and it’s a real nice moment for us. So I really appreciate you guys showing up here.”
His cousin and Sitka Republican state senator Bert Stedman was on the inaugural flight from the capital city. He said the new connection will help in a region that has felt the state’s budget crunch for ferries and airports.
“We keep a pretty good eye on the airport funding and the amount of people coming and going in all the airports,” senator Stedman said. “So it’s very nice to see additional trips with seaplanes into Petersburg, that all counts for people coming in and out and how we allocate dollars around airports, so it doesn’t all end up up north. It’s going to make it a real nice enhancement to get from Petersburg and Juneau and back, for more commerce and then those that have family in Juneau, or like myself in Sitka where my sister could make it easier to come over and see our mom in the Pioneer Home which is very difficult.”
Stedman also noted the expansion of the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium hospital in Sitka, where Native health patients from around the region receive their services. This twice a day link to Juneau will make for a quicker connection between Petersburg and Sitka compared to the longer layover required on Alaska Airlines. Petersburg also has twice a day jet service from that larger airline. And other companies have tried the daily connection between Petersburg and Juneau but haven’t seen the passenger demand.
Alaska Seaplanes also flies out of Juneau to Kake, Klawock, Angoon, Hoonah, Tenakee, Haines, Skagway, Pelican and Elfin Cove.
Alaska Seaplane’s first Petersburg flight Monday was on a Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. They’ll also be using Cessna caravans. Those all can carry up to nine passengers.
Pilot John Cahill said it wasn’t his first time landing in Petersburg.
“I’ve been here a couple of times doing training and otherwise, yeah not too challenging, it actually reminds me a lot of Juneau just with the terrain and stuff,” Cahill said. “You just got to keep track of what’s going on and get to the runway safely.”
Those flights go from Juneau to Petersburg and back twice a day, landing in Petersburg around 9:15 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. and departing about 15 minutes later.
Petersburg still has local travel mandates in place for screening and COVID-19 testing. The emergency operation center is looking into what it can do for incoming passengers from this new service.
Editor’s note: Alaska Seaplanes is an underwriter of KFSK in Petersburg where this story was produced. A photo cutline for this story has been corrected to fix titles for Alaska Seaplanes employees.