Postal system may resort to ferry transport

Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2002

While the fog has not cut Juneau off totally from the rest of the world, it's safe to say most of the mail that has made it in and out of Juneau in the last few days has been electronic.

"We haven't seen any planes in the last three or four days," said Andy Ritzman, manager of Aero Services, which handles the loading, unloading and distribution of U.S. Postal Service mail from planes at the Juneau Airport to post offices in town.

Evergreen Airlines, which transports mail from the Lower 48 to Ketchikan, Sitka and Juneau, has been leaving Juneau's mail in Sitka, Ritzman said. Authorities with the Juneau Postal Service said 41,000 pounds of mail destined for Juneau is waiting at the Sitka airport.

"According to the weather reports, the fog's going to lift this afternoon for a couple of hours, so they're going to shuttle a charter between Sitka and Juneau," said Juneau Postmaster Kent Eriksen. "If that happens, that will take care of all the Juneau mail in Sitka."

If the weather remains unflyable through the afternoon, postal authorities in Sitka will put Juneau's mail on tonight's ferry, Eriksen said. Usually, the Postal Service uses the ferry system only during the busy Christmas season.

Once planes can resume flights into and out of the Juneau, the mail system will be running on schedule in a few days, he said.

"Usually we're not more than a couple of days backed up at the most," Eriksen said. "Before we used to have trouble because passengers and luggage went first, and then mail second. Now we have dedicated charter flights that come in without passengers."

The biggest problem faced by the Juneau Postal Service right now is with express mail service, Eriksen said.

"Express Mail is guaranteed delivery at 3 p.m. the next day," he said. "A couple of days isn't good enough."

Customers whose express mail was delayed are entitled to a refund of the postage, Eriksen said, but postal insurance does not cover perishable items.

Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.



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