Dalavia Far East Airlines, you'll recall, announced earlier this year that it would be flying the route in time for hunting season this year. However, the company pulled out just a month before those flights were to commence. Now, both Vladivostok Airlines and Sakhalin Air have started jumping through all the hoops to take up this route.
Of the two companies, Vladivostok Airlines is further into the process, needing only one more head-nod - from the US Transportation Security Administration - before the FAA allows them to begin flying between Petropavlovsk and Anchorage. We have that directly from Charlene Derry, manager of the Office of International Aviation for the FAA in Anchorage. Derry says Vladivostok Air seems to have its act together. First flights are expected next June. We understand Vladivostok Airlines plans to start flying this route on a seasonal basis only until it can fully assess the market.
As for Sakhalin Air, Derry confirmed to us that the airline has announced its intent to begin flying this route next summer. She says the company is working with a major aviation law firm in Washington, D.C. If everything is completed in a timely basis, Sakhalin could be competing with Vladivostok next year.
Will either of these airlines actually fly next summer and provide reliable service for hunters? We're not about to make that call right now, as there have been a number of false starts and failed attempts by various airlines here. It's worth noting, however, that Derry was cautiously optimistic about this latest move.