Fairbanks-to-Dawson flights get go-ahead

FAIRBANKS — U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced plans to double the number of customs positions at Fairbanks International Airport, a move that will allow direct flights between Fairbanks and Dawson City, Yukon.

The federal agency last month denied a proposal by Whitehorse-based Air North to offer nine flights a week between the two cities. The agency cited a staffing shortage in Fairbanks that left it unable to process tourists flying from the Canadian community, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The flights were part of a plan by tour company Holland America to transport as many as 19,000 visitors by air between the destinations. The alternative is a two-day bus ride.

Air North not only won its appeal, but the agency decided to add three permanent positions to Fairbanks.

The extra staffing will also be a plus for private and commercial aircraft that routinely travel across the border to Fairbanks. Customs agents are currently available for only eight hours per day, providing a limited window of opportunity for small aircraft making the roughly four-hour trip from Whitehorse to Fairbanks.

Alaska’s two U.S. senators and Congressman Don Young supported the appeal and all three issued statements applauding Friday’s decision by the agency.

“This is more than a silver lining to the storm cloud that we saw overhead for a bit,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski said. “This is an open door to 365 days of more international tourism and an increased stream of visitors, commerce and visibility for all of Alaska, but especially the Interior.”

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