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Vladivostok Air has officially announced that the airline will begin operating flights from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula this coming summer. Just to be sure there was more to this than an empty promise, we checked last month with the deputy director of Vladivostok’s Japan office, D. Hada, who is overseeing the implementation of the Anchorage-Petro service. Hada confirmed that the company plans to fly this route from July 7 to September 15, 2008 on Mondays and Thursdays. When we contacted Hada, he was in the process of meeting with travel agents in Seattle and setting up offices there.
Here’s what else we know: Vladisvostok will be flying the Tupolev 204-300, which has 134 economy seats and eight business class seats. Tickets are scheduled to go on sale by mid-January. The cost for a roundtrip ticket had not been set as this was written in mid-November, but it is expected to be less than $2,000 for an economy class seat. The Fly Shop’s logistics partner, Travel Meetings & Incentives, and Red Star Travel are among the travel agents hoping to sell tickets. We’ll have a complete list of agents for you as soon as Vladivostok completes its agreements with them.
How reliable are Vladivostok’s plans? Well, the Anchorage-Petro route is part of the airline’s expanded service in the Far East, complementing flights to and from China, Korea, Singapore and Thailand, where they report a strong demand for direct service with Alaska. And the company’s news release specifically mentions outdoor enthusiasts (anglers and hunters) as a target market.
Ryan Peterson of the Fly Shop sent us an enthusiastic e-mail indicating that the Fly Shop planned to use Vladivostok’s service this coming summer and that they expected an avalanche of interest from anglers who have held off fishing in Kamchatka since Magadan Air stopped flying directly from Anchorage two years ago. The Fly Shop as well as Will Blair of the Best of Kamchatka are confident about service for the 2008 season. Todd Hibner of Ouzel Expeditions, who originally sent us word about Vladivostok’s news release, says he is cautiously optimistic about this development and awaiting the final announcement and schedule before committing to this route.
We also checked in with executives at Sakhalin Airlines, who you’ll remember announced its intentions to pick up this route as well. According to Sergey Burdinsky, deputy commercial director of charter and logistics at Sakhalin, the airline has received approval from the US Department of Transportation and is awaiting the nod from the US Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Once they receive these approvals they will coordinate with the Federal Aviation Administration. Sakhalin plans to operate from Yuzhno-Sakhalin and Petropavlovsk-Kam- chatka to Anchorage this coming summer, utilizing B737-200 aircraft with 108 seats. While a second airline would certainly increase options for anglers traveling to Kamchatka, the question is whether the demand for this route is sufficient to support two competing airlines. We’ll keep you posted on developments.