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Alaska Marine Highway System releases winter schedule: Announces new ‘dynamic pricing’
The Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Kennicott departs for Bellingham, Wash. on Thursday in the Tongass Narrows near Bar Harbor. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

KETCHIKAN (KDN) — The state released its new winter ferry schedule Thursday, and rolled out a new “dynamic pricing” system that will see ferry fares for passengers, vehicles and cabins increase as the space available on a given voyage decreases.

The Alaska Marine Highway System schedule that was published and opened for reservations on Thursday covers the months of October through the end of April, and reflects the results of a more than $43 million reduction in state funding from the previous fiscal year.

The schedule shows no service to Southwest Alaska or Prince William Sound thoughout that time frame, in addition to service gaps in some of the northern panhandle ports.

The schedule also reflects Wednesday’s AMHS announcement that its ferry service to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, is being discontinued after Oct 1. AMHS attributed the end of Prince Rupert service not to financial issues, but from AMHS being unable to secure a Canadian law enforcement presence at the Prince Rupert terminal as requested for safety purposes by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

The final scheduled round trip between Ketchikan and Prince Rupert will be Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

Southeast Alaska also will see the reduction of one mainline ferry during the winter schedule. For most of that time, the Matanuska will be the only mainline ferry operating in Southeast Alaska and to the AMHS southern terminus at Bellingham, Washington.

For most weeks, the Matanuska is scheduled to depart Ketchikan southbound for Bellingham at 3 p.m. on Mondays, arriving back in Ketchikan on Friday mornings before continuing on to points north in Southeast Alaska.

However, the schedule shows five weeks without service between Ketchikan and Bellingham. During those weeks — Oct. 27-Nov. 2, Nov. 24-30, Dec. 22-28, March 8-14 and April 12-8 — there will be northbound mainline departures from Ketchikan on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The state ferry Lituya is scheduled to operate two round-trips per day between Annette Bay and Ketchikan on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. The Lituya is scheduled for a two-week overhaul from Jan. 10 through Jan. 24.

The Lituya — and all other AMHS ferries operating during the winter schedule — will be subject to “dynamic pricing.”

“As availability decreases, the published fares will increase,” states the AMHS announcement.

The fare increases start as soon as a given voyage reaches 30% of capacity. For example, if a given voyage is at least 30% booked, the passenger fare increases by 5%, and the vehicle and cabin fares increase by 10%.

Each additional 10% in capacity booked will correspond with some sort of increased fares.

Once a given voyage is at least 80% booked, the passenger fares will have increased 30% from the original fare, and the vehicle and cabin fares will be 50% higher, according to AMHS information.

AMHS also will be raising fares by 10% for ports deemed to be having a special event. The fare increases will be in effect four days before and four days after the event, according to the announcement.

AMHS also will be charging fees to change existing reservations.

“Fees will be $20 up to two weeks before departure, $50 two weeks to three days before departure and $100 within three days of departure,” stated the announcement, which added that: ”Passengers are encouraged to book early for the best fares.”