Dutch Harbor, located 800 miles southwest of Anchorage, is the largest fishing port by volume in the US. Made famous by the reality TV show “Deadliest Catch,” Dutch Harbor and the city of Unalaska is home to almost 5000 year round residents. During peak season that number doubles bringing workers in to help with the commercial fishing operations.
When buying transportation to the Island, the only options are by air or boat. The Alaska Marine Highway provides seasonal service at around twice a month, while Alaska Airlines using PenAir provided aircraft provide year round service.
Dutch Harbor is listed as the destination, occasionally causing confusion to those trying to get to Unalaska. Dutch Harbor, or simply “Dutch,” refers to the major port for the city of Unalaska. The harbor as well as the airport are on Amaknak Island as well as the majority of the population of the City of Unalaska. The adjacent island to Amaknak is the island Unalaska where the majority of the cities land is. Locals will often call their home Unalaska, while visitors call it Dutch Harbor.
Anchorage to Dutch Harbor
I flew from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor, booked using miles from Alaska Airlines and spent one night in the Grand Aleutian Hotel. At a cost of just 7500 Alaska Airlines miles each way within Alaska, it’s one of the better uses of Alaska miles. From the rest of the lower 48 it’s a steal at only 12500 miles each way.
Flights are operated by PenAir Turboprop Saab 340s. This is a unique partnership for several reasons, one being that Alaska Airlines fully pays for these flights and for all intense and purposes they are Alaska Airlines flights. This means that partners of Alaska Airlines, such as American and Delta, should be able to both redeem and earn miles on the flights like any other Alaska flight. Alaska Airlines previously operated with their own aircraft to Dutch Harbor, but with the retirement of the 737-200 they no longer had an aircraft that could land on the short runway.
Originally I was booked on the first flight of the day to Dutch, but they requested volunteers to re-booked onto a later flight due to weight and balance issues. It’s a 3 hour flight, one that is getting close to the edge of the range for the plane. I volunteered, received a free flight voucher anywhere Alaska flew, and came back to the airport a few hours later for the next flight.
Since I already had my boarding pass and no security to go through for these flights, I arrived at the airport a few minutes before boarding. Boarding commenced, and we departed quickly. On departure if the weather is nice there is an excellent view of various mountain ranges, volcanoes and isolated towns and lodges.
On this flight we were required to stop in King Salmon, AK for fuel. While not scheduled, it’s a relatively common for these flights. After a brief stop we continued on out over the Bering Sea following the Aleutian chain of islands out to Dutch Harbor.
Dutch Harbor/Unalaska, AK
Upon landing a rental car was acquired to explore the area. There is less than 40 miles of road, 7 of which are paved, but still plenty to see without going too far from the roadways. A World War II museum is located next to the airport, and some WWII sites are within an easy walk from a parking spot.
Return to Anchorage
The flight back to Anchorage was again around 3 hours. No need for a fuel stop, but had a slightly better view due to the weather.