A new airline is coming to Kenai and says it plans to stay.
Grant Aviation Inc., based in Anchorage, will start regularly scheduled air service between Kenai and Anchorage in May.
The company has not yet announced a day service will begin.
"We just want to be the best airline in the state of Alaska," said Bruce McGlasson, president and co-owner of Grant Aviation.
The company also is owned by Woody Richardson and Jeff Taggart.
Grant started as a small air carrier in Emmonak, a small western Alaska community on the Yukon River inaccessible by road. Started in 1979, McGlasson said the company is used to operating on gravel runways in rural communities. While it has started small, the focus has been on serving customers and slowly building the company.
The company has since expanded and now serves about 50 communities in Western Alaska with 23 airplanes. Last year it transported 70,000 passengers on its regularly scheduled air services.
McGlasson said the company always had its eye on the Kenai market but did not feel ready to move in until now.
"We've watched the Kenai Peninsula market for years with some envy," he said.
Kenai Municipal Airport has seen three air carriers come and go in the last five years. Era Aviation has been the only company in recent years to maintain a consistent schedule in the Anchorage-Kenai market. McGlasson said his company plans to set up shop here on a long-term basis. To illustrate that, he said a station manager is moving his family to Kenai to run the new service.
"It's not a temporary thing," he said.
McGlasson said the company tries to hire locally, when possible. He said competition with another airline is always good for the customer and lends itself to lower airfares.
Grant Aviation plans to start service with a couple of routes and build on those as needed, McGlasson said. The schedule is still being determined, he said.
"I'm pretty psyched about this whole deal," said Richardson, director of operations and co-owner of the company.
Richardson said he thinks this will be a fairly straightforward market to operate in.
Rebecca Cronkhite, Kenai airport manager, said the airport is always looking for new companies to serve this market. Many of the airlines that have come and gone in the past were not established companies or were trying to start the company in this market, she said.
"It's been quite a while since Kenai has had competition from an established air carrier," Cronkhite said.
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