Alaska and Russia get closer to each other with new air links

Yakutia Airlines Boeing 737

At first glance, Russia and the United States could not be further apart, like two separate Worlds, yet, the two are actually very very close to each other...

In a past presidential campaign, when asked about international policy, Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin famously replied that she could see Russia from her home state of Alaska...well, she was technically right on this point, since the two Diomede Islands, Big Diomede (Russia) and Small Diomede (Alaska, US), are separated by just 2km of water on the Bering Straits.

Recent geopolitical turbulence has even led some in Russia to remember that Alaska was, until 1867, Russian territory.

In any case, both the Russian and American sides of the Bering Straits have some things in common: a sparse population and an exuberant magnificent natural environment.

Far from the main economic centres on the Pacific Rim, Alaska and the Russian Far North-East may be close geographically, but, short of the the proposed Bering Straits tunnel being completed one day in the distant future, not really connected in any meaningful way...or are they?

Well, a couple of seasonal air routes are changing this state of affairs, at least during the summer months (Winter in that part of the World is really really harsh!).

For the fifth year in a row Russian carrier Yakutia Airlines (itself no stranger to this blog!) has launched its weekly flight linking Anchorage, Alaska with Yakutsk, in Eastern Siberia. The flights, on a Boeing 737-700/800, run via Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the gateway to the Kamchatka Peninsula, one of the natural wonders of Russia, with its famous picturesque volcano, salmon-filled wild rivers and bear-spotting grounds . At Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky it is also possible connect with flights to Moscow, Vladivostok and other Russian cities.

But this is not going to be the only air link available to those aiming to explore this remote corner of the World...another Russian airline, Ural Airlines (also featured on this blog earlier) aims to link Anchorage to the Northern Chinese city of Harbin, via de Russian city of Magadan, a port on the sea of Okhotsk, so remote that its name is often used in Russia as a synonym of forced exile. This new air route existed already as a charter connection, but will now be made regular, with a weekly frequency, operated by an Airbus A320.

As a curiosity, this is going to be shortest connection between China and the United States.