The state of Alaska will start offering complimentary COVID-19 vaccinations to tourists at airports across Alaska this northern summer. Alaska’s Governor, Mike Dunleavy, made the announcement on social media over the weekend.
Free COVID vaccinations at four airports across Alaska this summer
Funded by federal stimulus money, all passengers arriving at Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau or Ketchikan airports from June 1 can get vaccinated free of charge. The state of Alaska has offered its own residents free vaccinations since early March. Alaska will now join 21 other states offering non-residents access to COVID-19 vaccinations.
If you’re keen to get in early, later this month, there will be an under-the-radar five day trial at Anchorage International Airport. That trial will gauge tourist interest in the free vaccinations and help iron out wrinkles ahead of the June rollout.
There has been some criticism of the decision. Some experts say handing out free vaccinations to non-residents encourages vaccine tourism. Others say it takes vaccines away from other states where there remains a high need for them. Governor Dunleavy says it’s just one part of a multipronged strategy to revive Alaska’s tourism industry.
“We believe there is a real opportunity to get folks to come to Alaska,” said Governor Dunleavy last Friday. “Come to Alaska, get a free vaccination if you want one. You don’t have to pay for it; we’ll have things set up at the airport. If you want one, we’ll help you out. So that’s another good reason to come to the state of Alaska this summer.”
— Governor Mike Dunleavy (@GovDunleavy) April 16, 2021
The state’s namesake airline, Alaska Airlines, says domestic passengers do not currently need a COVID-19 vaccination before flying to Alaska. However, the airline does note some local government areas, including Juneau, Petersburg, and Wrangell, do have some entry restrictions for arriving passengers from elsewhere across the United States. Alaska Airlines flies to 14 destinations in the state.
While not without some controversy, Governor Dunleavy’s decision is a concrete attempt to kickstart tourism in Alaska and boost airline traffic to the state. It is also relatively straightforward.
Airlines play a big role in boosting Alaska’s economy
Tourism in Alaska generates billions every year and accounts for one in ten jobs. While tourists flock to Alaska to cruise, they tag those cruises with stays in cities like Juneau and Ketchikan, spending money there. Normally, more than two million people visit Alaska every year.
Most of those travelers fly in. According to the Department of Transportation, Alaska Airlines has a healthy 73% domestic flight market share in Alaska. Trailing Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines has a 12% market share, American Airlines has 3.5% and United Airlines around 3.2%. Alaska Airlines is running about 80% of its 2019 capacity in Alaska this upcoming summer.
“We are optimistic this will be a good summer to travel to Alaska,” The Anchorage Daily News recently quoted an Alaska Airlines spokesperson saying. Other airlines have also shown renewed interest in Alaska lately. United Airlines will start a new non-stop service between Anchorage and Minneapolis-St. Paul this summer. American Airlines is laying on 787 Dreamliners to Anchorage from both Chicago and Dallas. Delta Air Lines is also significantly stepping up its summer services to Alaska.
After a tough 2020, Alaska’s airports are now seeing an uptick in business. Alaska’s big airports are optimistic this summer will be a bumper one. Fairbanks International Airport expects to handle about 33% more domestic passengers this summer than in 2019. Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is now seeing domestic seat capacity at 90% of 2019 levels. They are encouraging statistics. Governor Mike Dunleavy hopes his latest initiative will bump along those statistics some more.
Would a free COVID-19 testing on arrival in Alaska encourage you to fly there? Post a comment and let us know.