Story & photo by Dan Davidson
Reports from the Whitehorse Star, Yukon News and CBC North indicate that Air North will indeed be flying Holland America clients between Fairbanks and Dawson next summer instead of busing them over the Top of the World and Alaska Highways.
Holland America announced the decision to phase out its Top of the World and North Alaska Highway coach tours last summer, indicating that they would prefer to shuttle tourists to and from Dawson by air and give them an extra day here instead of a day on a bus.
Initially, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency denied Holland America Line the option of using Air North to shuttle as many as 19,000 tourists between Dawson and Fairbanks during the next summer season.
The company projected nine flights weekly, which the CBP maintained would strain its staff beyond what the agency could handle, nor were they initially willing to reallocate staff to Fairbanks to handle the increase in their original response.
It took a very brief discussion on November 12, for Dawson’s council to pass the following resolution: “That Council opposes the recent denial of the Dawson-Fairbanks tourists flights and supports the appeal of the decision as undertaken by Air North.”
“I have been in contact with the folks at Air North and told them we’d be dealing with this tonight,” said Mayor Wayne Potoroka.
“I’ve received an email from folks at Northern Vision (Developments) to say that they ere very concerned about this decision. They own a hotel here now (the Downtown Hotel, in partnership with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in) and they want to make sure that this market is sustained.”
Air North appealed the decision, as did U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski.
Most recent reports indicate that CBP has decided to move three of its 26 positions from Anchorage to Fairbanks in order to handle the extra work. One position was vacant already, and it is expected that two others will be by the time they are needed in Fairbanks.
In the meantime, Air North has also announced that it will be inaugurating a twice-weekly flight to Yellowknife and Ottawa early in 2014.