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Isaacson Welcomes News of Dawson City to Fairbanks Flights

Customs and Border Protection approve landing rights for Air North at Fairbanks International Airport

Monday, November 18, 2013, North Pole, Alaska – Representative Doug Isaacson released the following statement today after the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that they would reverse a recent decision to deny landing rights for a daily Air North flight next summer from Dawson City to Fairbanks.

“The announcement from CBP that they will approve the flights from Dawson City to Fairbanks comes as great news for Fairbanks,” Issacson, R-North Pole, said. “These flights will not only quadruple current international passenger volume at Fairbanks International Airport, they will benefit our economy greatly in the short-term and hopefully lead to more development down the road.

“The decision to deny the application was not accompanied by any critical analysis, staffing metrics or cost justification; this is the part that is completely unacceptable. Public input was critical in getting our message heard and ultimately led to the CBP changing their decision.”

Air North is planning a 266-mile daily flight from Dawson City to Fairbanks at 11:15 a.m. and a second flight operating two days a week at 2:15 p.m.

A copy of Isaacson’s letter to Susan Mitchell, Acting Assistance Commissioner for the Customs and Border Protection, is below.

Representative Doug Isaacson
Alaska State Legislature

October 30, 2013

Susan T. Mitchell, Assistant Commissioner (Acting) Office of Field Operations
United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 1300
Pennsylvania Avenue
Room 2.4A
Washington, DC 20229

RE: AIR NORTH REQUEST FOR LANDING RIGHTS AT FAIRBANKS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT IN SUMMER 2014

Dear Ms. Mitchell:
Alaska is a huge state. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit, I certainly invite you at your earliest convenience. We would be happy to host you to make sure you have a good understanding of our state.

Canada divides Alaska into two parts. Just to travel from Southeast Alaska to the Interior requires border crossings. Canada also shares a 1,500 mile long border with our state (which is twice as long as Michigan’s shared border with Canada). Although we share many economic and social activities with one another, we are two different countries and require Customs and Border Protection (CBP) services frequently in our day to day activities. Tourism in particular is heavily affected by the need for CBP support.

Today, I am writing to request CBP support in particular for Air North’s application for YDA-FAI-YDA landing rights from May 12 to September 14, 2014. Because visitors and agencies are planning their vacation packages right now, this request is time sensitive and requires immediate action. These flights will carry tourists between Dawson City and Fairbanks on one leg of a sealand itinerary between Skagway and Anchorage that if denied, according to the latest visitor statistics, pose a direct economic impact of $3 million to our local community.

Air North’s application to increase summer flights from two over two days to nine over seven days a week, four months a year, is motivated by their customers expressing a strong desire for less time in transit and more time exploring their destinations. These flights would significantly reduce travel time and allow passengers additional time in Fairbanks. Based on past year’s data, the guests are 84% U.S. citizens, 10% Canadian, 3% Australia/New Zealand, and 1% Great Britain.

Air North’s application was denied because “the impact on CBP’s existing operation proves to be too significant to support” followed by a suggestion to re-route the flights through Anchorage International Airport (ANC). This conclusion and suggestion is unacceptable. It was not accompanied by any critical analysis, staffing metrics, or cost justification. Below are some compelling reasons to reevaluate and support Air North’s application.

These flights will quadruple the existing international passenger volume at FAI from approximately 8,000/year to 27,000/year in the foreseeable future. When combined with the other international traffic at FAI – direct charters from Japan Airlines in summer and
winter, Korean Airlines in summer, corporate jet traffic and general aviation – we believe it reaches a critical mass of business that may warrant a reallocation of CBP services to accommodate the demand growth at FAI; certainly it warrants further explanation and critical analysis than offered in the denial letter.

Staffing criticality was demonstrated this past summer when only two of three officers were hired, causing a loss in corporate jet traffic and general aviation. The recent hire that brought CPB staffing back to three officers had an immediate positive impact on
international air transit though FAI and on our economy. This reinforces the assessment that additional CPB resources are needed at FAI to augment existing and meet future demand.

Fairbanks is hosting the Arctic Winter Games in March of 2014 where we anticipate more than 2000 athletes from the Yukon Territories, Northern Alberta, Greenland, NW Territories, Nunavik, Nunavut, and Sweden. This is a very important event that will require CBP support in Fairbanks. Alaska Aerofuels and the Fairbanks International Airport have been promoting Fairbanks as both a destination and a backup for aviation diversions. That doesn’t always mean having people land during 9-5 Monday-Friday hours, especially in the summer. Private jets, northern light seekers, hunters, outdoor enthusiasts, business executives and general aviation are all completely typical and vital to our economy and way of life.

CBP’s suggestion to use ANC as an alternative airport for processing is unfeasible and unreasonable. It tells me that you do not understand our size. Having Holland America’s guests clear Customs in ANC on their way to FAI would require them to fly twoand- a-half times the direct-line distance flight to FAI, re-routing from 266 air miles between YDA to FAI to 650 air miles from YDA to FAI via ANC; the equivalent to flying from New York City to Washington, D.C., via Cleveland, Ohio. This rerouting would more than double the costs, result in fewer statewide visitors by increasing transit time, and negate all of the customer service improvements and economic benefits to Fairbanks community.

The above reasons illustrate that international air demand at FAI warrants CBP’s reconsideration to allow landing rights for Air North. It is a vital piece of governmental service infrastructure that we must have to conduct business in the far north. Thank you in advance for your reconsideration.
Sincerely,
Doug Isaacson
Representative, House District 1
Alaska State House

 

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