Why not share and give us a name so others aren't stuck with this same outfit.I've posted about this before (about 10 years ago) but I'll repeat it again.
I had always heard that hunting Thorofare in Wyoming's Teton Wilderness was the adventure of a lifetime. I knew several friends who had hunted it years earlier for elk and deer and had a great hunt. I researched outfitters and picked one, mainly because of his experience and accolades by previous hunters. I booked a hunt and it would be a great 70th birthday present for me.
This was my first 100% guided hunt and I made mistakes.
Learned a hard lesson. But on the plus side .....it was not a total loss. I experienced some amazing country and learned that I was a lot tougher at 70 years old than I thought I would be.
Yikes. That really stinks. Hoping if there is some class action suit you might get something back. I get what ppl say about trip insurance, but there is also something about the golden rule and doing the right thing in business. Trip insurance is like all these 'convenience' fees you now see all over the place. To me it's all crap. I won't do any Airbnb dealing just on principle. Convenience fee my @$$...I booked a hunt with artic air paid the deposit .bought all the gear that they suggested ,paid for a airline ticket than get a notice that there is no caribou hunt this year .they informed me that I might be able to go next year or the following year to which I said us not a option .I asked for the deposit back , their response was sorry Charlie you should have bought trip insurance. This was a once in a lifetime hunt for me .so please becareful with who you trust your hunt with
Every word of this is True. Myself and 3 others where part of the 2021 fiasco. We can call except that weather in Alaska is it own beast. But the way Shelia handled the situation is wrong and I would never recommend them for any reason.I want to post this message of 'what I've learned' and to assist others who may be planning an Alaskan Adventure. I will provide facts and try to abstain from injecting my opinion as these companies and the people operating them have really soured me after 2 years of planning and spending my hard earned money.
Like most folks, my team and I did our research on outfitters/transporters. They all come with plenty of pro's and con's, so one has to sort through the comments and opinions and make the best decision with the information found during the discovery phase of planning. I sorted through nearly 10 different transporters and narrowed the list to 3. I then came across a hunting consultant, Outdoor International, and I figured there was no harm in making a telephone call and asking some questions. So happened, Artic Air was one of the companies the consultant worked with. The consultant not only recommended them, but had hunted with them a number of times in the past as well as having future hunts scheduled with them.
Based on the better than average reviews (not many AK transporters get great reviews based on my research so deciding on an company is tough) and the node from the hunting consultant, I decided to book with Arctic Air.
Unfortunately, as time passed, additional information started to make its way onto the internet. This is because Artic Air previously HAD a good reputation in past years, but was recently purchased by Mike and Shiela Spisak. Mike and Shiela Spisak previously owned and filed bankruptcy with Ram Aviation. When you review the past information available for Ram, it's a colossal train wreak! The Spisak's recently acquired Artic Air and are doing the same thing under this company umbrella. Its almost as if they flip companies like folks flip houses. I've been told this is their 3rd business venture in the past 15 years. More information is now becoming available on the internet as word has gotten out, but it was a little to late to salvage my AK adventure.
Fortunately, I had trip insurance so 95% of my cost was reimbursed. However, I made a number of purchases for gear that are not returnable. Hopefully I'll get to put this gear to good use on a future adventure. Other folks have claims pending and others opted not to purchase insurance, but that was a personal choice. However, the manner in which dozens of trips were canceled was directly related to Artic Air's lack of professionalism, business sense, and good old common sense.
A few points that were not clear prior to my trip that need to be considered for anyone thinking of using Mike and Shiela Spisak and whatever company they may be controlling at the time of your trip discovery phase. I would also question a lot of the information coming out of the consultant, Outdoor International, if vetting is not improved;
1. Artic Air is running their business like a factory, They are not concerned with your adventure, your hunt, your success, or your well-being while in the field. With each passing payment, the communication will become less and less. The manner of communication lacked professionalism becoming of a business.
2. Artic Air has only 1 plane. It is a float plane so landing on water is their only option. Obviously, landing on water is not always a good idea when the rains comes and the rivers are flooding. Artic Air has no back up plan to get you into or out of the field. Other transporters are not willing to work with them. I was previously told they operated 2 planes and worked with other pilots. Following the migration can be tough when you can't land in the travel corridor at the appropriate time.
3. There were so many insurance claims filed this year, that Artic Air and the Spisak's are being questioned for fraud. This fact is also delaying folks from recovering their insurance money.
4. Artic Air received money from 30+ hunters whose trips were cancelled. I'm hearing as many as 40 hunters, but can not substantiate this claim. They offered nothing in return. Yes, there is a contract in place and insurance is recommended. However, when you receive $5,000 per hunter and provide nothing in return that is bad business. (IMHO) They should at least cover the cost of your insurance claim as well as send the proper documentation for one to properly file said claim. They made the sale with no expense. The communication completely deteriorated at this point. They did offer to re-book ONLY hunters who did not have insurance next year. This will only exasperate the issue as they are already booked for next year and from what I understand they typically overbook. It is quantity not quality when it comes to working with Artic Air. (Refer to point #1 above) They never offered another discounted hunt in the future to anyone. I would not accept this offer regardless of price point.
5. Outdoor International was very little assistance at this point. They are still recommending this transporter for other hunters! This is very bad business and I consider them as an accomplice for any future issues of hunters who unknowingly book with Artic Air. The vetting process of transporters and outfitters needs serious improvement at Outdoor International. They sold the trip on the bigger picture stage, but lacked details. This is on the individual to dig deeper, but the change in company ownership clouded some variables from coming to light sooner. Hence my reason for putting out this public notice.
6. I have it on good word that one of the two hunting consultants from Outdoor International went into the field 3 days after I was supposed to be flown into the backcountry. (IMHO) This is bad business. My group was asked to accept a cancellation. This was a real slap in the face by someone I thought I could trust....
7. Of the few hunters who were flown into the field by Artic Air, they were flown into old camps and often times across the lake from other camps. The goal was to simply drop hunters in the backcountry without care of animal migration, hunter crowding, or general placement. Once in the field, communication was very very limited.....
8. Artic Air has no backup plan when things go wrong in attempting to get hunters into or out of the field. I know of one group that was stranded for 2 weeks. Yes the weather was bad, but one float plane and no contingency plan and agreements with other transporters put the lives of those hunters in danger.
9. Of the few hunters who made it into the field this year and were successful, they considered themselves lucky and most will not be recommending Artic Air.
Yes, I am disappointed that I did not get to go to AK. Sometimes things happen and I accept this fact. I am glad I was able to recover my money and was not stranded for 2 weeks in the the AK backcountry wondering if anyone was coming for me as my food dwindled.
However, Mike and Shiela Spisak, currently at Arctic Air, have a habit of making these 'negative' things happen. I've listed their names because I want folks to be able to track the perpetrators and not get hung-up on the company name as they have a tendency to change companies after a few years.
I am also looking into filing a claim with the BBB of AK as well.
If anyone has any questions please feel free to send me a private DM.