Serving 11 small communities along the Inside Passage, Alaska Seaplanes is the “city bus” of the Southeast, providing convenient and reliable flights from its hub in Juneau. The quick trip in an iconic floatplane or wheeled plane provides essential service to remote towns, and showcases breathtaking sights all along the way.
The local choice
The people who make their homes in small towns along the Inside Passage know the Alaska Seaplanes schedule by heart. Each flight is an essential connection to the outside world. It’s how the groceries arrive, it’s how the mail gets delivered – and it’s how people travel out for basic needs: college, doctor visits, business trips, family reunions. It’s also how most visitors get here, experiencing these island communities first from the air, as tiny dots in an otherwise vast, lush and undisturbed landscape of mountain and sea.
Fast and frequent
Ferries on the Alaska Marine Highway System also serve many of these communities, but they aren’t as fast, nor as frequent. For example, the ferry docks in Pelican just once a month. The sailing takes 7 hours from Juneau, whereas a flight takes under an hour. Most visitors have already spent a travel day getting to Alaska. Flying to a final destination maximizes precious vacation days, and gets you fishing, kayaking or whale watching that much faster.
Any Alaska Seaplanes flight you are on is guaranteed to be cozy. Depending on your destination, you’ll either be in a float or wheeled plane. The fleet includes aircraft that can seat up to nine (Cessna “Supervan” Caravan) down to the DeHavilland Beaver that can seat up to six and the Cessa 207 that seats five. Alaska Seaplanes has continually upgraded its equipment over the years, with newer aircraft featuring the latest in Capstone GPS avionics, to improve the safety and reliability of flight operations.
Taking off from Juneau
Once you’re in Juneau, pick up your bags and head just 100 feet down the hallway to check in at Alaska Seaplanes. If your final destination has a runway, you’ll be departing from the terminal and Juneau’s main runway on a wheeled aircraft like the Cessna Caravan or a smaller Cessna 207. If you’re headed out on a floatplane, a shuttle will take you to the floatplane pond. This is an exciting part of the flight, especially for visitors who have never flown in a floatplane before. Just pulling up to the plane, getting in and taking off from the pond brings back the nostalgia and romance of a by-gone era.
Green, gray, blue and white. That’s the main color palette of Southeast Alaska, a series of islands and mainland with mile upon mile of craggy coastline, acres of forested wilderness, massive glaciers and towering mountain ranges. For lots of folks, the flight out is one of the best parts of their whole trip. Alaska and all its grandeur is right there, just outside your window. Along the way, your pilot will call out landmarks – an island, river delta, or notable peak or glacier – and wildlife if they spot whales breaching, eagles soaring, or bears frolicking on the beach. “Every flight to me is as exciting as the first one,” says Kent Craford, an owner of Alaska Seaplanes. “I pinch myself that I get to do this for a living.”
It's not all sunshine.
The weather in Southeast Alaska is famously unpredictable. Safety is top priority for Alaska Seaplanes, so you could be delayed due to weather factors. It’s smart to add a buffer of a day or so on either side of your flight into the small towns of the Inside Passage. (Be sure your flight back home from Juneau isn’t right on the heels of your flight back from Elfin Cove or Angoon, for example.) If you are delayed, take it as a bonus day in a fascinating part of the world you may not see again. If you plan for that upfront, you won’t be disappointed.
Your baggage limit is just 50 lbs. on a floatplane, and 70 lbs. on a wheeled plane, so pack lightly. If you’ve got more, that’s okay, but you’ll pay an additional fee. Also, be aware that there’s no room for carry-on luggage in these smaller planes.
Tip: If you don’t need everything, it may be cheaper to leave some luggage at Alaska Seaplanes’ bag storage right at the main terminal. ($10/day, per bag.) Or, if you arrive in the morning and want to spend the day in Juneau before a later flight out with Alaska Seaplanes, you’re welcome to leave your bags at the counter and they will be held at no charge.
If you know where you want to go and when, just book your flight online through Alaska Seaplanes. Call if you have questions or need advice. The folks at Alaska Seaplanes are more than happy to give you insight into each of the communities they serve and the lodging and activities you can find in each. Unseen Alaska also details five of those communities.
You can also ask about charter flights too, especially if you’re looking for something a little different. Maybe you want to take a kayak and be dropped off at a remote cabin on Admiralty Island, Alaska Seaplane Adventures is your choice. Or perhaps bear viewing with Pack Creek Bear Tours (also operated by Alaska Seaplanes) is top on your list. Do a little planning, get some advice from Alaska Seaplanes, and you can have the adventure of a lifetime in one of the most beautiful and wild places on earth.
The people are the best part.
While you’re in Alaska, you can learn a lot about the people and way of life just by talking to local residents, and that starts with your pilot. Alaska Seaplanes pilots are top-notch, friendly folks with a love of Alaska and its people. Be sure to talk with your pilot about what it’s like to fly in and out of these remote towns. For many, it’s gratifying getting to know the people who depend on them so much. “The communities of Alaska are small and close-knit,” says Craford. “There are lots of characters, and each town is very hospitable in its own way. The people are the best part.”