Here is some interesting info, read below:
Airlines considering Russia flights
By James MacPherson
Bill Cheek offers this advice for anyone traveling to the Russian Far East: "Have a lot of patience and a cast-iron stomach."
Cheek, chief executive of Natchiq Inc., is a veteran of many travels to Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East.
Cheek's company and joint-venture partner Natchiq Sakhalin LLC have about 120 workers developing promising oil fields on Sakhalin Island. Many of the workers are Alaskans.
Since Reeve Aleutian Airways folded shortly before Christmas in 2000, freight forwarders and executives like Cheek have been forced to use a long and expensive route through Asia, a flight that sometimes takes several days because of layovers.
It's a trip he only takes a few times a year, but he never looks forward to it, at least travel-wise.
A Reeve flight to the Russian Far East from Anchorage used to take about seven to eight hours and cost less than $1,000. Now, it's a more than $6,000 one-way journey that takes two to three days to complete, usually with a lengthy layover in South Korea.
"It has been terrible ever since Reeve folded," Cheek said. "The time and money it takes to get there is ridiculous.
"We and others are anxiously awaiting the return of that connection and I know a lot of people want to make it happen," Cheek said of the direct flight from Anchorage.
Cheek said as drilling activity increases so does the need for a direct travel link to Sakhalin. But then again, Cheek said, he's not an aviation marketing expert.
"I'm not an airline executive, and I know airlines operate on razor-thin margins," Cheek said. "But to me, it's low-hanging fruit."
Several airlines have studied the possibility of offering a direct link to the Russian Far East from Alaska, but as yet, the flights have not taken off.
"It's still up in the air, so to speak," said Jeff Berliner, trade specialist with the state's International Trade and Market Development office, which has worked hard to re-establish Alaska as a Russian gateway. "It's tough. We have not yet solved the problem."
The greatest hope of a Russian Far East-Alaska link probably comes from Evergreen International Airlines Inc., which last July was awarded a federal contract to provide jet service to Adak. The $1.5 million annual subsidy would allow the airline to provide service to the Russian Far East, company officials said at the time.
Evergreen had intended to provide the service by February in a 727-100 combi aircraft. But after the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks, new regulations on combination cargo and passenger airplanes forced the company to rethink its plan.
Now, says Evergreen President Jerry Rock, the company will bring on line three 727-200 passenger jets to Alaska, at least one of which will service Sakhalin.
Rock said the air carrier expects the service to start within 100 days.
Northern Air Cargo Inc., too, is considering offering both cargo and passenger service to the Russian Far East, said Todd Wallace, NAC's vice president of sales and marketing.
"We're exploring the possibility," Wallace said.
The airline operates three 727 all-cargo airplanes in Alaska.
"This is pretty exciting stuff for us," Wallace said, adding that the company is working with the Russian and American governments to obtain the necessary clearance, some thing he expects will happen within six months.
"There are always a lot of hurdles," Wallace said.
Before Reeve ceased operations, Alaska Airlines and Russia's Aeroflot had offered service from Anchorage to Magadan, Khabarovsk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Vladivostok. Alaska stopped its service in 1998, and Aeroflot, a year later.
Mavial or Magadan Airlines, a Russian carrier based in Magadan, also had monthly scheduled service between Anchorage and Magadan, but ceased operations in 2000.
Natasha Johnson, Mavial's sales manager in Anchorage, said the airline soon will offer scheduled weekly flights between Anchorage, Kamchatka and Magadan.
The airline, however, has no intentions of matching Reeve's old service.
"Everybody is talking about it, and I'm pretty sure we've considered it, " Johnson said. "We have the capability, but it probably is not profitable."
Yoshi Ogawa, president of ITC Travel Inc., said it's a gamble for an airline to provide service from Anchorage to the Russian Far East.
Ogawa, whose company specializes in booking travel from Alaska to the Russian Far East, said he's not confident the numbers of people and freight can justify service yet.
"The risk is very high," Ogawa said
Era Aviation in 2000 studied the possibility of flights to the Russian Far East, and said it would offer service to oil-related businesses if given a contract.
But Philip Bray, director of operations for Era's fixed-wing operation, said his airline is not looking at service to Sakhalin anytime soon.
"We don't foresee any activity in the Russian Far East presently," Bray said.
Bray pioneered the Russian Far East routes for Reeve and left for Era before the airline stopped operations.
Bray said Reeve didn't lose money on the Russian Far East flights.
"They didn't go under because of Russia," Bray said.
He hopes some airline will eventually service the Russian Far East, to help the economies there and in Alaska.
"I'd like to see it work," Bray said.
Do you think we really would see some Evergreen Pax a/c up here in ANC, and NAC offering PAX service? My, that would be great!
I am trying to find some info on the once a week service to Magadan from ANC, maybe somebody would have some telephone #'s or URL's?