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One of the unique things about Ketchikan is how you leave the airport. After collecting your luggage you proceed out the the front of the airport as usual. But instead of the usual bustle of shuttle vans, private vehicles, and taxis in front you find a tranquil drive with a few parked vehicles.Instead you and your fellow passengers file across the driveway and down a long boarding ramp and into a small ferry for the ride across Tongass Narrows. On the other side, at the ferry terminal, you find the crowd of vehicles you would have expected at the airport.
The ferry runs every half hour and costs $6 for the ride. While unique, it does add a fair amount of time to the process of de-planing your aircraft and getting on your way to the final destination. Pick-up by float plane or small craft can be accommodated at a small dock on the airport side just north of the ferry terminal.
I suppose it is an improvement on the original airport. Before the opening of the Ketchikan airport in 1973, passengers would arrive at the Annette Island Airport 20 miles south and take a shuttle boat or floatplane to Ketchikan.
The ferry was to have been replaced by a bridge a couple decades back, but the funding drew a storm of controversy in the US congress. As the planned bridge was large enough to cross the channel with the needed clearance for cruise ships to pass underneath it would have been big. Thus the budget was a few hundred million dollars.
The city of Ketchikan was caught in the controversy over federal budgets and earmarks, with the bridge derisively labeled the “Bridge to Nowhere” and used as a symbol of pork barrel spending. As a result the funding was eventually pulled and the airport ferry remains a fixture of life in Ketchikan.
Be messy… We will just hose down the deck later.
The Ketchikan airport is a little different for access. The facility sits across Tongass Narrows from the city. Access is by a small ferry that regularly shuttles across the channel with passengers and the occasional vehicle. A covered walkway runs from the terminal to the ferry landing to allow passengers to access the ferry in the notoriously wet Ketchikan weather.The famous congressional controversy around the “Bridge to Nowhere” scuttled the effort to build a span connecting the airport and the island to the city. For now the ferry remains the solution.
Aside from the ferry there is another option… Boaters should have no difficulty accessing the airport. There is a small craft dock on the south end of the seaplane dock just below the terminal. Here a boat can tie up and passengers can walk right up to the main terminal.We have performed this maneuver, finding it quite convenient. Meeting a scheduled Alaska Airlines flight with the Nordic Quest. We docked about an hour before the flight to debark family members leaving on the flight, waving them goodbye on the dock. After the flight landed other family and friends came walking down the gangway. Yes, the logistics were complex to arrange, but it worked rather well.
There is room for two mid-sized vessels on either side of a finger pier at the floatplane dock, out of the way of the aircraft. This should be considered a loading zone, only used when meeting a flight.Baggage carts are free here. If there is not a cart sitting on the seaplane dock you can run up to the terminal and procure a cart or two for luggage and coolers of fish.
The dock makes the transfer of passengers unusually easy in Ketchikan. No taxis or rental cars needed to get to a marina, just park your vessel at the airport. Good planning and coordination may be required to meet your flight, but it has worked well for us.
Need a taxi? Catch the airport shuttle? No. We will just use the boat. This is the only large airport in the world, that I am aware of, that you can actually do this.