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Where to fly on PenAir?

Where to fly on PenAir?

Old Jul 15, 11, 11:24 pm
  #1  
fti
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Where to fly on PenAir?

I have two free round trip tickets that can be used on any PenAir flight except to Dutch Harbor. Must be round trip (not open jaw) and no stopover allowed. Must be PenAir operated flights and not Alaska Air operated. I am planning on starting the trip in Anchorage.

I am especially interested in photography, wildlife, hiking and scenery.

What are some suggestions people might have and the best time to visit the place(s) you suggest? I am considering St. George Island, Cold Bay or Sand Point but I need to do more research.

Thanks.
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Old Jul 21, 11, 8:21 am
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Originally Posted by fti View Post
I have two free round trip tickets that can be used on any PenAir flight except to Dutch Harbor. Must be round trip (not open jaw) and no stopover allowed. Must be PenAir operated flights and not Alaska Air operated. I am planning on starting the trip in Anchorage.

I am especially interested in photography, wildlife, hiking and scenery.

What are some suggestions people might have and the best time to visit the place(s) you suggest? I am considering St. George Island, Cold Bay or Sand Point but I need to do more research.

Thanks.
Given your interests, unless you want to spend a lot of money chartering out, I'd eliminate CDB and SDP from the list. There's very little to do at/near Cold Bay, and Sand Point really doesn't have much tourist infrastructure to speak of. As for wildlife, about the only thing you might be able to see on Popof Island (Sand Point) would be some of the bison that inhabit the back country, but they're very hard to find most of the time. Around Cold Bay, there is a lot of wildlife (including a famous brownie that interrupted my lunch at the Flying Tigers canteen once, by coming in through the kitchen.) However the village itself is beyond bleak.

That leaves the Pribilofs. St. George is (IMO) much more scenic than St. Paul, with a better Russian church, higher cliffs, more foxes and birds, and closer seal rookeries, but there's very little accommodation for tourists (just the old NMFS bunk house, now renamed a "hotel") and AFAIK no food service - you cook your own at the "hotel," having bought it at the village store. You'd also probably want to hire some local with a truck to take you out and about, but it's definitely worth it. Note the weather + strip at STG can make for some exciting approaches and T/Os, and it can get seriously socked in, so only travel if you're very flexible.

Saint Paul has a much better developed tourist infrastructure, with a newish hotel, food service, and on-island transport options. HUGE bird-watching destination, so depending on when you're traveling you might or might not find it easy to get mileage seats.

So I'd pick STG if you have the flexibility and are willing to play it by ear a little, then SNP. Frankly if you want to visit DUT, CDB, KVC, SDP or other towns on the chain, you might want to look at the ferry at some point in the future.

ETA - as for time to visit, I'd pick the dry season. Late summer/early autumn best, best birding in high summer.
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Old Jul 22, 11, 10:26 am
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Thanks for the info. I appreciate it.

Actually these are not mileage tickets, they are round trip tickets valid in any fare class, i.e. if there is a seat on the plane I can book it (per what I was told verbally at the airport). And I have two of them. So the Pribolofs were on my radar for one of them anyway. Thanks for the detailed info.

I will have to give it some more thought. I will already be in AK next April/May then again next July and was hoping to add a PenAir round trip to each of these trips. So most likely the Pribolofs will be in high summer.

FYI, I don't believe there is a "dry" seson in Alaska. If there is, it is only when I stay in hotels or cabins. When I tent camp, no matter when I go, it always seems to rain! May, June, July, August, September, doesn't matter. Fortunately I don't tent camp in Alaska when I visit from October to April!
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Old Jul 22, 11, 11:02 am
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Re dry season - it doesn't rain that much on the chain - it rains in Russia and the wind blows it there.

again.
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Old Jul 28, 11, 5:33 pm
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I would vote for the Pribolofs as well. The reason I haven't actually gone out there yet is for the reasons listed above. It can be expensive and a decent chance of getting stuck due to weather.

Another place I would love to go on Penair is Akutan, due to it being serviced by a Grumman Goose. I'm not sure if it's bookable using miles or the kind of voucher FTI has though. The flight is from Dutch Harbor, but it is possible to get to Dutch Harbor without getting on the flights owned by Alaska Airlines connecting through Cold Bay or somewhere. Not sure if that would be valid.

Last edited by alphaeagle; Jul 28, 11 at 7:45 pm Reason: typo
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Old Jul 28, 11, 6:13 pm
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Thanks for more ideas. It looks like I might do the following:

1) Fly to ANC in March, spend a night then use one of the vouchers to fly to Unalakleet or McGrath for the Iditarod. I prefer Unalakleet since the mushers tend to spend more time there than in McGrath. Waiting to hear back from the volunteer coordinator for the Iditarod about which might be better for volunteering and/or if they have any leads on housing. Any ideas on housing in either of these places from FT'ers? Sleep Inn in Unalakleet is the only place I have found so far

2) Using the other voucher for the Pribolofs in early July before a trip to Kodiak or mid July after the Kodiak trip (flying to a Forest Service cabin in the Kodiak NWR).

I did call PenAir today to confirm that my ticket indeed is "if there is a seat on the plane, you can book it."

I can't find any way to get to Akutan from Anchorage solely on PenAir. Seems like you have to go through Dutch Harbor, which is not allowed on my ticket.

John
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Old Jul 28, 11, 7:57 pm
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Originally Posted by fti View Post

I can't find any way to get to Akutan from Anchorage solely on PenAir. Seems like you have to go through Dutch Harbor, which is not allowed on my ticket.
I didn't say it too clearly, but Alaska Airlines also has the same restriction on redeeming PenAir award tickets to/from Dutch Harbor. They are referencing the non-stop flights from Anchorage, that must be bought through Alaska Airlines, and would count towards an Alaska Airlines award.

What I'm wondering is if you could redeem to Dutch Harbor via the actual PenAir flights that go through other villages. Though in your case I don't think it matters, as I believe you would need to make a stopover somewhere to get to/from Akutan as the non-Alaska flights don't connect.

The plan you listed sounds great though!
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Old Jul 28, 11, 8:37 pm
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Originally Posted by alphaeagle View Post
I didn't say it too clearly, but Alaska Airlines also has the same restriction on redeeming PenAir award tickets to/from Dutch Harbor. They are referencing the non-stop flights from Anchorage, that must be bought through Alaska Airlines, and would count towards an Alaska Airlines award.

What I'm wondering is if you could redeem to Dutch Harbor via the actual PenAir flights that go through other villages. Though in your case I don't think it matters, as I believe you would need to make a stopover somewhere to get to/from Akutan as the non-Alaska flights don't connect.

The plan you listed sounds great though!
I understood what you meant (and thank you!) and from my checking earlier I didn't see any way to do it.

But now I am starting to wonder. I did find a connection ANC-SDP-DUT-KQA. But my ticket only has four coupons so I don't think I could get all the way to KQA. But I wonder if PenAir would allow me to fly ANC-SDP-DUT and return DUT-CDB-ANC on pure PenAir operated, PenAir coded flights. It might be more interesting to go to DUT. I would need to do some more research on it and contact PenAir to be sure it is possible.

I think I would rather go to DUT than to the Iditarod again (been to it twice, including several days in March 2011 with a flight to the Rainy Pass checkpoint). Great experience but I prefer to experience new places in AK when I can.

Thanks for all your help, both of you.
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Old Jul 29, 11, 11:31 am
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Checked with PenAir and yes, I can fly to DUT with the change of planes en route.

So I think I will forget the Iditarod idea and go to DUT before or after an already-scheduled trip next April/May. The choices are:

Apr 23-26 (3 nights, almost 3 full days since my flight on 26 Apr would not depart DUT until 5pm).

--or--

May 8-10/May 8-12 (2 nights or 4 nights).

My guess is that later is better for hiking. What about for wildlife viewing and photography? Thanks for any input.

John
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Old Jul 29, 11, 6:48 pm
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Originally Posted by fti View Post
Checked with PenAir and yes, I can fly to DUT with the change of planes en route.

So I think I will forget the Iditarod idea and go to DUT before or after an already-scheduled trip next April/May. The choices are:

Apr 23-26 (3 nights, almost 3 full days since my flight on 26 Apr would not depart DUT until 5pm).

--or--

May 8-10/May 8-12 (2 nights or 4 nights).

My guess is that later is better for hiking. What about for wildlife viewing and photography? Thanks for any input.

John
Later is better. As for wildlife, probably the same w/r/t birds; probably no difference for marine mammals. As for terrestrial mammals, well, there aren't that many, although an Unalaska friend of mine once started assembling a rat parka, using pelts collected in/near her mizzen hut out behind the cemetery. (Tedious work, but you spend a lot of time indoors on the chain.) There will be some foxes around, near bird nests/rookeries. Wildlife viewing at the Elbow Room is no longer a viable option.

I would frankly suggest you plan to focus more on the human geography of Unalaska rather than the natural environment. There's a whole lot of fascinating (and long) history on both islands. If interested you might want to pick up a copy of Alaska at War or one of Stan Cohen's "Forgotten War" books so that the vivid WW2 history all around Unalaska will make more sense.

ETA: By all means make your desires to ride on the Goose known to the Penair drivers. It's not exactly a stuffy organization, and who knows, you might get to hop over to Akutan if you ask real nice. Try to sit up front if you do - landings and T/Os at Akutan are a hoot.
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Old Jul 29, 11, 9:08 pm
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I definitely want to see some of the history stuff, the WWII stuff, bunkers and more. I will look into that book.

I might come back to you later with more questions if you don't mind. Seems from here and TA you are a quasi-expert on DUT. I had your posts on TA about DUT in my AK file ready for the day I might visit. Now the time might be close at hand!

Thanks!
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Old Aug 1, 11, 9:21 pm
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Went to book the flights today and PenAir won't let me fly DUT-ANC on the flight that makes one stop in Cold Bay. They can't book it as separate segments, since the plane only stops for 19 minutes and the MCT is 30 minutes...even though I would be arriving and departing on the same plane

So that means they will let me have an overnight on the return in Cold Bay (at my expense of course). I arrive about 6pm and depart the next afternoon about 1pm. So I get a few hours to check out Cold Bay too. Quite nice.

So now my itin is this:

08 May ANC-DUT
12 May DUT-CDB
13 May CDB-ANC, 9 hour layover, continue to MSP

Then I will book the Pribolof trip next month when availability opens up.
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Old Aug 22, 11, 2:41 pm
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I pretty much have my itinerary firm now that I could book flights with DL/AS using miles for the trip between MSP and ANC/ADQ. Traveling in early July.

MSP to ANC, two nights
ANC to STG, four nights (at the only hotel with kitchen, no restaurant)
STG to ANC to ADQ, one night
Seven nights in a Forest Service cabin in the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge (bear viewing and photography)
ADQ to ANC to SEA to MSP all in one day (including a redeye SEA-MSP)

All that for 25K DL miles, $10 in security fees and a free PenAir ticket for being bumped. The MSP-ANC-ADQ round trip would otherwise cost $886. ANC-STG round trip would cost $962. I would never pay either of those fares, so I can't say my miles are "worth" that, but still a good return on miles.
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Old Aug 30, 11, 5:46 pm
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Originally Posted by fti View Post
I pretty much have my itinerary firm now that I could book flights with DL/AS using miles for the trip between MSP and ANC/ADQ. Traveling in early July.

MSP to ANC, two nights
ANC to STG, four nights (at the only hotel with kitchen, no restaurant)
STG to ANC to ADQ, one night
Seven nights in a Forest Service cabin in the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge (bear viewing and photography)
ADQ to ANC to SEA to MSP all in one day (including a redeye SEA-MSP)

All that for 25K DL miles, $10 in security fees and a free PenAir ticket for being bumped. The MSP-ANC-ADQ round trip would otherwise cost $886. ANC-STG round trip would cost $962. I would never pay either of those fares, so I can't say my miles are "worth" that, but still a good return on miles.
Well - there is not really any other way to gain access to STG anyway... ADQ one could use a ferry, but still a pita.
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