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Thread: ******* Air Service

  1. #1
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    Default ******* Air Service

    Hey guys I am new to the forum. I joined after being told about it from some guys I met in camp. My brother and I made our first hunting trip to Alaska. It was great. We shot 4 caribou. I don't like to complain but was unhappy with one part of our trip. We flew to Deadhorse via Alaska Airline. Then we flew to Kavik River Camp via *******. The flight too and from Kavik cost us 1900. That was a bit more than I was thinking but with limited options it was doable. We were then told there is an 850lb weight limit per flight. Ok I understand that for safety reasons. Filling out the paper work their paper stated that each hunter is allowed one caribou. We were told that that was only for their hunters and that it didn't matter because we were going through Kavik River and another charter service. It didn't seem right to me with the one caribou per hunter and still making the 850lbs weight limit. I alone probably had 320-340lbs between me gun and gear. With two guys guns gear and two bulls. I dont think 850 would be doable but whatever. We flew to Kavik River Camp and then out to the bush with Jeff Kruse of Bushwacker Air. Jeff was a great guy and very easy to work with. I would highly recommend him. When it came time to leave I called **** at ******* to arrange a flight from Kavik to Deadhorse. **** to me seemed very unprofessional. He wasn't very friendly on the phone. I had to keep calling him back because he never had any information and he seemed upset of our 4 caribou and having to make another flight. We were at Kavik for 2 days before he figured the weather was decent enough to come pick us up. At this time there was also another hunter at Kavik that needed a flight back to Deadhorse. It would be just him and his gear so he could easily jump in with our meat and make weight and save them a trip. When we got to Deadhorse **** charged us another 950 before the plane would leave to go get our meat. We asked if we could pay the difference of the flight with the other hunter. You pay round trip upfront so the return flight is paid for. The other hunter originally flew out in a group of three so he already paid 633 for his flights. We had to pay full price or we didn't get our meat. When the plane returned we had a discussion about the money paid for the flight and why we couldn't combine them. **** was right and that is the way it was. No discussion really. So on the last flight they made 1583 on a 950 flight. I was not real impressed with the service at *******. The pilots we had were great guys and very pleasant. **** not so much. If I ever hunt that area again I will find another option and not fly with *******. I wont give my money to a business that treats people that way. Sorry for the rant. Just thought my story might save someone else some money and give them less hassle.
    Last edited by Brian M; 08-18-2015 at 07:44. Reason: forum rules regarding negative comments

  2. #2
    Member Redlander's Avatar
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    mudygmc,
    When you get enough posts to PM, send me a PM and I can point you to a forum where you can post problems with service without all the "editing". This is a pretty decent forum for general information, but only reports of sunshine and butterflies are allowed when it comes to guides, lodges, outfitters, and transporters; on the other hand, you can freely gripe about equipment, the ADF&G, the Federal Government, State Troopers, or the weather. However, the owner of the site makes the rules.

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    Why cant we post about our experiences with certain outfits on here? I just had a pretty lame experience with an air service out of Soldotna too. Luckily they have a ton of reviews on tripadvisor so I was able to voice my experiences to the public there...

  4. #4
    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    Its always hard to be judge and jury based on one person's report, but in reading through the gripe list, its hard for me to get too worked up against the air carrier. It sounds to me like the OP came north with some misperceptions about bush flying and hunting in Alaska. I may be wrong, but just a couple things: Number one, the weight limits set by a carrier are set in stone. FAA and insurance, as well as personal experience of the airline come together to set the weight. Sometimes, due to weather, flight conditions, landing/take off area that weight limit is lowered. It is never upped; it is there for a reason. Where I hunt sheep, a rusty cub carcass marks the spot where 2 hunters didn't take weight and weather seriously enough and paid the ultimate price.

    Number 2. The pilot is the ultimate authority. If he doesn't like the weather, he doesn't fly. If he doesn't like the weight, he doesn't take it. He is responsible for your life, and more importantly to him, his own life. Second guess his decisions all you want, but don't expect stellar service from him if you try to change his mind on issues related to safety. He's the authority, not you. Accept his decisions and deal with it.

    Number 3. Bush flights are expensive. Come to the charter with an open wallet. If you choose to shoot something, know it will cost you to get it out. Have a solid plan in place with charter prior to putting something on the ground. The pilot may or may not have been grumpy about having extra animals to haul out. What he did have to deal with was making another flight. You were not the only hunters he had to work with; hunting season in Alaska is extremely packed for bush flight services. They have all the scheduled pickups and drops, limited by when weather allows, and any weather delays push scheduled drops and picks back, stacking up for when the weather is flyable again. Then throw in an extra landing to pick up meat, and that may push back a hunter pick up or drop off.

    As to combining a meat pickup with another hunter flying out, many times that will work out. Pilots try to minimize their trips by combining whenever they can. As for trying to save yourself money doing it this way, it becomes a nightmare for a business to combine trips and bill payers. Sometimes it works, and its great. It works best when all parties just pay according to the rate sheet. I wouldn't bash the airline too much for not seeing it and doing it your way. You killed the game, it required an extra flight, it was your responsibility to pay for it. You saw a way that was outside the norm to save yourself money if the pilot agreed to it, but he didn't, and that's that. If you had been 50 pounds over the limit, you would still be responsible for the cost of a full trip to get that extra bag. Unless you could sweet talk the pilot into combining, and it worked with his schedule and flight routes.

    If you understand these things upon going out to hunt, and are very gracious with the pilots and their agents (who in many cases are the wives, husbands, or children of the pilot,) things usually turn out much sunnier. Service you receive often is a reflection of your own actions. Not saying this is the case here, but in reading the post it seems that these things were not very clear to the OP.

  5. #5
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kevin476 View Post
    Why cant we post about our experiences with certain outfits on here? I just had a pretty lame experience with an air service out of Soldotna too. Luckily they have a ton of reviews on tripadvisor so I was able to voice my experiences to the public there...
    It's a liability issue. We've discussed and rehashed it here multiple times in the past, but in basic terms we cannot risk defamation/libel lawsuits. While such suits are rarely won, simply the cost of legal defense is too great a financial risk for this site. Furthermore, we recognize that there are often multiple sides to such stories. When businesses are not able to defend themselves (not all businesses are on this site/aware of the posts here), we can get a myopic view of the situation. As such, we feel that the preferred alternative is to allow people to discuss such situations via PM.

  6. #6
    Member AK Troutbum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    It's a liability issue. We've discussed and rehashed it here multiple times in the past, but in basic terms we cannot risk defamation/libel lawsuits. While such suits are rarely won, simply the cost of legal defense is too great a financial risk for this site. Furthermore, we recognize that there are often multiple sides to such stories. When businesses are not able to defend themselves (not all businesses are on this site/aware of the posts here), we can get a myopic view of the situation. As such, we feel that the preferred alternative is to allow people to discuss such situations via PM.
    Makes sense. Well said Brian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    It's a liability issue. We've discussed and rehashed it here multiple times in the past, but in basic terms we cannot risk defamation/libel lawsuits. While such suits are rarely won, simply the cost of legal defense is too great a financial risk for this site. Furthermore, we recognize that there are often multiple sides to such stories. When businesses are not able to defend themselves (not all businesses are on this site/aware of the posts here), we can get a myopic view of the situation. As such, we feel that the preferred alternative is to allow people to discuss such situations via PM.
    Yes Sir. that makes sense to me as well, I was just curious. I wasn't trying to stick up for anyone either. I knew exactly what our weight limit was and that determined how much I could bring back. I had just dealt with the rudest person I had ever met (our pilot). Thanks again Brian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    It's a liability issue. We've discussed and rehashed it here multiple times in the past, but in basic terms we cannot risk defamation/libel lawsuits. While such suits are rarely won, simply the cost of legal defense is too great a financial risk for this site. Furthermore, we recognize that there are often multiple sides to such stories. When businesses are not able to defend themselves (not all businesses are on this site/aware of the posts here), we can get a myopic view of the situation. As such, we feel that the preferred alternative is to allow people to discuss such situations via PM.
    Yeah, lets just spend our time bashing guides in general and how they hog all the good sheep hunting.
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    Judging by the number of asterisks and past reports, I'm fairly certain of whom you speak of. He likes to charge people more money once people arrive and for extra meat runs when it's supposedly included in costs. I've always flown with Wrights out of Fairbanks. You pay a single fee for a round trip flight with an 850 lb payload. It's always been said to us that you can kill all the critters you want, if an extra flight is needed, they'll make it happen with no added fees. Usually they are doing those runs as back hauls instead of flying back to fairbanks empty, they do a good job of picking up what they can so they're not making extra trips.

    $1900 from Deadhorse to Kavik is just plain retarded. You could fly to likely your same destination for $2500 total, roundtrip, from fairbanks.

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    These are all questions y'all need to be asking before you put down a deposit. I've used the transporter being referred to (I think) and they delivered exactly what I had hired them for. I would not hesitate to use them again. If I needed an extra flight I would expect to pay for that time.

    The only way additional flights will be included is if you are paying a large amount to begin with (beyond the cost of one round trip). Planes cost money to operate, especially up north. The operator is a businessman first and is not going to operate at a loss just to avoid hurting your feelings. Alaska Airlines gives you a certain baggage allowance. Beyond that you are going to pay extra. If you can't complete your business in one flight and need another...guess what...you are going to buy another ticket. If the cost to Kavic is ridiculous just fly your own plane up there. Try to figure out how much that costs.

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    Also, it is hunting season. The aircraft is more than likely based at Happy Valley. The transporter probably asked the OP if he could get to Happy Valley because it would be cheaper to go direct to Kavic vs. needing to fly the aircraft from HVY to Deadhorse to Kavic and the opposite for the return. The OP probably did not have a ground transportation option so he was stuck flying out of Deadhorse. So $1950 for 4 legs does not sound "retarded". When it comes to airplanes you are going to pay whether the plane has you in it or it is just returning empty.

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    Member mossyhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Birdstrike View Post
    Also, it is hunting season. The aircraft is more than likely based at Happy Valley. The transporter probably asked the OP if he could get to Happy Valley because it would be cheaper to go direct to Kavic vs. needing to fly the aircraft from HVY to Deadhorse to Kavic and the opposite for the return. The OP probably did not have a ground transportation option so he was stuck flying out of Deadhorse. So $1950 for 4 legs does not sound "retarded". When it comes to airplanes you are going to pay whether the plane has you in it or it is just returning empty.
    It is when you can leave out of FBX, with a reputable charter, kill whatever you want and get it all back to town with no added costs AND for a few hundred more. And that $1900 was just to get to the fly out point, what'd the bush flight cost? I get that operating costs are more on the slope. But why go all the way up the haul road, or fly up there and pay that kind of money when there are cheaper and easier options? Unless you come to the table late and are desperate.

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    I understand the position of the site, and for full disclosure I love this site. But if you take a stance like the Bowsite.com that an outfitter report is not filed until the outfitter has just time to respond, then I think you are doing a much better service to its members than that of just a non-biased site.

    That being said, the bowsite is has not posted a review in many months due to some internal issues per the site owner of getting guides to reply to the email sent to review the initial client review..

  14. #14
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    I know of very few commercial operators that 1) have the time to peruse all the Internet forums in search of negative reports and 2) are willing to enter into an online debate with anyone over their perceptions (real or imagined) that they didn't get what they thought they should have received. It's a huge can of worms that only satisfies the few who enjoy the drama. I think our solution of members posting in the private message system is as close as we can come to a solution. I can only hope that our members realize that when conflict occurs, there are almost always multiple aspects to it, and the accuser is rarely 100% correct. This is the pitfall of even using the PM system; you only get one perspective.

    To illustrate: One year we had a client on a moose / brown bear hunt, who we had to MEDIVAC due to an undiagnosed tumor in his stomach. The tumor had an artery associated with it, and the artery ruptured during the hunt (nobody's fault). I arranged the MEDIVAC from the field, and continued the hunt with his friends, at their request (it was a couple who accompanied him). The remaining hunter weighed about 350 lbs, and was physically incapable of performing the things he needed to do in order to be successful in that particular hunting area (I didn't book the hunt, I was only guiding the hunters). At the conclusion of the hunt I visited the injured hunter in the hospital and ran into the other couple and the injured hunter's wife. I was told the injured hunter didn't want to see me, which was a surprise as I thought he would be grateful for having been rescued (he almost died). Instead, I heard his wife thanking the other couple for the tremendous role they played in the rescue (they did nothing; the overweight man simply sat on a log and cried the entire time, which was fine. I understood, and did what needed to be done.) Later we received a complaint that the food was terrible, that I put soap in their food, and many other things that were simply not true. They were upset because they didn't shoot a moose or a bear on the hunt, and were looking for someone to blame. And of course they took credit for the rescue. My point is that there are always more sides to the story. I never went to any website to speak about my side of this, but instead just moved on and let it be. So let's be careful with negative reports, and realize that we often, more often than not, never really know what happened.

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    I understand everybody's points and opinions. When the initial call was made there were questions asked. I am no doubt green. This was my first big game hunt that I didn't drive too. The way I perceived the information I got (hind sight) appears they left out some details that would be better for them in the end. I informed them we had 4 tags and planned to fill them. It wasn't mentioned at all about an extra charge to haul out the other game. I totally understand flights cost money and that an extra trip costs them more. When you combine two full paying parties on a load to save them time and another trip a combined rate would have been the decent way to do things. There was never anything mentioned about flying out of HV. They were just used as a charter service. We had another bush pilot lined out to fly out of Kavik River Camp. When there talking to them the plane we flew in was mainly used to haul goods to villages and small towns and was based out of Deadhorse. Hunters filled in the open time slots. The main issue I have is the poor customer service. I had great service from Bushwacker Air. It was awesome the way he helped us. I have been in the service industry for many years being self employed. I would never dream about treating customers the way we were treated. The way you treat people reflects highly on you and your business. I don't want my business or me perceived in a negative way. I go out of my way to make things pleasant for the customer. Just the way I do it. Obviously other people see it differently.

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    I am surprised about the cost of the shared flight. Regardless of how many people are on that flight it would have cost the original person their share. If the cost of a charter is $2000 for a full or empty plane that is what it should be. Not $3000.

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    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    mudygmc,

    Congratulations on a successful Alaskan caribou hunt on the north slope! And safe air travel for you and your buddy by the two air services! That's really what your first-time post on this forum should be about.

    Best,

  18. #18
    Member BRWNBR's Avatar
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    i know pilots who charge more by the lake they land on, just because they don't like it. also most won't let me put people on a backhaul, if i pay for a round trip flight, they will do whatever they want on the return trip with the plane empty, even though i'm paying for it, they might swing out and pick up another paying client, that way they are making double time on the flight back. i've never agreed with this, i figure if i'm the one paying for the prop to be turning i should be the one dictating where those wings go, but not so. i never argue, i smile and show up everytime orgainzed and ready to fly...and to pay. nothing about flying in alaska is cheap and i always say theres two people you never piss off....the pilot is one of them.
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  19. #19
    Member mit's Avatar
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    Buy your own plane and see what it costs....
    Tim

  20. #20
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    I spend a lot of time with my hunting groups working on air charter selection, and I have discovered that there's a lot people just do not know. I don't blame them for it, many of them have never been here before, and some of the resident hunters I work with have done very few fly-out hunts. I need to write all this out for the site, but here's an overview that might shed some light on some of this, and perhaps help the OP understand what happened in his case.

    Air charters bill out in different ways, including at least the following three:

    TACH TIME
    While the tachometer is turning, you're paying. This is the hourly rate, or portion thereof. Sometimes this can work in you favor, if all you need is a simple straight-line flight from Point A to Point B. But if you're chartering from one side of the range to the other, and the pass is socked in, your pilot may have to take a different route. You could easily end up with a bill that's hundreds of dollars more than you planned.

    ZONE SYSTEM
    Draw a circle around the air charter's base of operations. Let's say the circle extends 50 miles on all sides. The operator may charge a flat rate for anything inside that circle. If we widen this circle, he might charge a different rate for the next fifty miles, and so on. The farther you fly, the more you pay. But the fees are somewhat level and easy to understand. Some operators offer all-inclusives in that they charge a flat rate including meat hauls, and others will charge extra if you should actually have the audacity to shoot something on your hunt. Discuss this with your operator to avoid multi-hundred dollar surprises later.

    TROPHY HUNT
    Some operators (usually Transporters, which are different from air charters) charge premium fees for certain areas. Maybe they only drop one or two groups there a year and by charging more, they can ensure that the area remains pristine and good for hunting in future years. Because they aren't dropping many people in that place, they charge a lot more money in order to make it worthwhile financially.

    COMMON PRACTICES
    It's very common for operators using the Zone System or the Trophy Hunt system to maximize their loads by hauling other groups in or out on the empty out-hauls or in-hauls. They've figured out their budgets based on this. So the implication that they are double-dipping on your dime may not be true at all. It's possible that if they didn't maximize their loads in this way, that they would have to raise their rates just to make it worthwhile to remain in business! In general it's a mistake for hunters to assume they have purchased both legs (in and out) of every flight they have booked. What you have purchased is a round trip. You are not paying for the empty airplane returning to base after you are dropped, nor are you paying for the empty airplane that flies out to collect you at the end of the hunt. The air service is well within their rights to fill those empty airplanes any way they can in order to survive as a business. And they would be foolish indeed if they didn't at least try to fill those empty flight legs with some kind of payload.

    When you hire a cab, are you concerned about whether or not they sent a completely empty cab out to collect you? Do you feel ripped off if they brought a passenger, in the same cab, to the place you were, and then hauled you? Of course not!

    Does that shed any light on the issue at all?

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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