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'Antler express' pricey, but will ship Alaska trophies despite Sept. 11 restrictions

Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2002

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) -- It's going to cost more, but hunters from the Lower 48 will have their trophies delivered right to their door as a result of tighter shipping restrictions because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Alaska Airlines has teamed up with Federal Express to create an ''antler express'' service for Outside hunters to ship their moose, caribou and elk antlers home this year.

Restrictions for shipping cargo were tightened after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 so that only ''known'' shippers could send freight between different airlines. A known shipper is one who has a history of shipping with an airline.

Nearly all hunters from the Lower 48 are ''unknown'' shippers. Before Sept. 11 both known and unknown shippers could ship freight wherever they wanted in the Lower 48. Now, only known shippers can ship cargo from one airline to another.

When the change was announced, the airline's customer service department received several calls from hunting guides wondering how their clients would be able to ship their trophies home, said Eric Howatt, manager of cargo development for Alaska Airlines in Seattle.

''We had to find an alternative for a lot of customers that Alaska Airlines is going to fly into the Bush to go hunting,'' Howatt said. ''Otherwise we were going to have lot of upset people at the ticket counter when they showed up with a rack that's three feet high and five feet wide.''

Under the new system the antlers will be flown to the Alaska Airlines cargo terminal closest to the hunter's home and then be picked up by Federal Express and delivered to the hunter.

The airline designed special plastic-coated corrugated cardboard boxes to ship the antlers. The boxes come in two sizes -- small and large -- and are adjustable. One slides in and out of the other somewhat like an accordion. The small box is 35 inches high, 27 inches deep and can be adjusted from 35 to 60 inches in length. The large box is 38 inches high, 34 inches deep and stretches from 39 to 70 inches, which should be big enough to accommodate any size of moose rack a hunter shows up with, said Howatt. The small box costs $24 and the large box is $36. The boxes were made by a Seattle company that provides Alaska Airlines with cardboard boxes.

''They made us a couple of samples and we sent them to Anchorage and tried different antlers in them and shipped them around the system to see how they would stand up,'' Howatt said.

More than one set of antlers can be loaded into a box and the maximum weight allowed is 150 pounds, which would still be more than enough to accommodate two, or even three, sets of moose antlers.

It will cost hunters more to ship antlers because the boxes take up more space than unboxed antlers did, Howatt said. Shipping a set of antlers from Alaska to California, for example, will go up $100, from $150 to $250, he said. Shipping cost is determined by how much cubic area an item takes up. The larger of the two antler boxes, if expanded to its maximum size, would cost upwards of $500 to ship, he said.

''It's not going to be a cheap process at all,'' Howatt said.

This is the first year Alaska Airlines has required antlers to be boxed. The airline stopped shipping antlers as baggage on passenger planes two years ago when other airlines around the country refused to carry antlers as baggage.

''They did not want to handle antlers at the ticket counters,'' Howatt said. ''They were damaging other bags and blood was leaking out from them.''

As a result, Alaska Airlines couldn't send any antlers out of its system to other airlines, which required antlers to be shipped as freight.

''As soon as a hunter's antlers went out of our system they were stuck,'' Howatt said.

Alaska Airlines reformed its policy to match that of other carriers, requiring antlers to be shipped as cargo instead of baggage, which has been the case the last two years.

Even though the boxes are coated with plastic inside, hunters will still be required to cover the tips of antlers with rubber hose and cardboard to prevent them from poking through the box and damaging other freight. Likewise, all meat is still required to be removed from the skull.

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