Era Aviation reaches out to Fairbanks, Bethel; 'A GOOD FIT': The airline plans to add a total of five new flights every day.

Fresh out of bankruptcy, Era Aviation plans a major expansion in September, adding scheduled flights from Anchorage to Fairbanks and Bethel.

The Anchorage-based airliner announced Monday that the new daily flights to Fairbanks and Bethel will begin Sept. 4.

It will be the first time Era has flown to either of the cities on anything other than a charter, company officials said.

"We've had customers asking about this for a long time," said Michael LeNorman, Era's director of sales, marketing and customer service.

He said Era's prices will be comparable to those of other air carriers serving Bethel and Fairbanks, but Era's entry into the market could stimulate competition.

"It's been shown where there is competition, there's a larger variety of fares in the market and the market actually grows," LeNorman said.

"It's not just for business travelers," said Scott McMurren, an Anchorage-based travel industry analyst. "Everybody has more options now. It's a matter of increasing the frequency of flights between the state's two largest cities."

Alaska Airlines and Frontier Flying Service also offer flights between Anchorage and both Fairbanks and Bethel.

Era plans to offer three flights daily to Fairbanks using a 37-passenger aircraft, and two flights daily to Bethel with a 19-seat cabin-class aircraft.

In a prepared statement, Era President Steve Jackson said Bethel and Fairbanks "are a good fit for Era based on the aircraft we operate and most important, based on input from our customers."

Era offers scheduled flights between Anchorage and Kenai, Homer, Kodiak, Valdez and Cordova.

The company filed for protection from its creditors in December 2005. A federal bankruptcy court confirmed Era's reorganization plan last year, paving the way for the Anchorage airline to emerge from Chapter 11 protection.

Era's plan included acquiring new aircraft to better serve its markets, company executives said at the time.

Daily News reporter Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at ebluemink@adn.com or 257-4317.



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