With a 20-year history of serving the Russian Far East, Alaska Airlines is no stranger to turbulence. But even airline veterans were taken aback when the company’s inaugural flight to the Kamchatka peninsula city of Petropavlovsk was turned back at the border this June by Russian air traffic controllers, who claimed that the airport was not open to international flights.
The passage was completed the next day, but planned weekly flights were postponed by local authorities until late August, and it took a decree by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to confirm that Petropavlovsk airport was indeed open to international flights. By this time the decree had little practical value. It was signed just one week before the end of the airlines' summer flight schedule aimed at the adventure tourism market.
Last minute turn-abouts are nothing new to Alaska Airlines and its Far East experience, which began in 1970 with a dozen charter flights to Khabarovsk. Flights to Leningrad and two more destinations were added the following year, with service continuing until 1972.
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