With Loss of Ferry Service, Griffing Airlines Becomes Put-in-Bay’s Winter Lifeline for The Islanders

With the recent stoppage of the Put-in-Bay Ferry Service, several hundred islanders living on South Bass Island known to most as Put-in-Bay, Ohio must now rely on an island airline transportation company for supplies including prescriptions, perishable food goods, and even the US Mail.

Griffing Flying Service is a 3rd generation family-owned business that recently celebrated 80 years of Put-in-Bay Winter service to the islands. Operating out of Port Clinton, Ohio and weather permitting they provide freight and passenger service to and from the island in the isolated winter months. Utilizing a range of airplanes that carry 4, 6 and 8 people the 8 to 10-minute flight across frigid water or jagged ice can often be hampered by low ceilings, poor visibility, icing conditions, dangerous winds or blinding snowfall.

On average Griffing’s Island Airlines will transport over 9000 passengers annually in over 3000 flights. “There are days we just cannot fly safely,” stated Thomas Griffing, and on those days you feel a little helpless. Even the simple case of the flu can mean depending on airline service to get to a doctor on the mainland or to receive prescription medicine sent by nearby community pharmacies.

Many conveniences such as a trip to the mall, movies, concert or sporting event require careful planning around weather conditions and flight schedules. The Put-in-Bay Airport is not lit precluding takeoffs or landings before dawn or after dusk further adding to the challenge of the Put-in-Bay island life. If that is not enough of a damper, a one-way adult ticket will set you back $46.75 and that can add up over time.

Islanders who spend the winter have ways of getting around inconveniences. Many families have several freezers that are well stocked before the end of ferry service. Online shopping through giants such as Amazon can get just about any package delivered to the Port Clinton Airport where Griffing’s Airline service will transport your order for $5.00 or $.15 per pound. Newspapers, Milk, fresh bread, eggs and produce often fill any empty seats on a flight.

Many islanders would not trade this lifestyle for anything. One islander stated “between the card parties, potlucks, ice parties, and community events there is something to keep everyone busy most of the time. The island’s only bank opens one day a week, and the islands only gas station opens for a few hours on select days. Put-in-Bay Hotels & Resorts have long since served their last guests of the year and only a couple of Put-in-Bay Bars are open.

Once the island of Put-in-Bay is blanketed in snow, the snowmobiles and ATV’s roam the streets as the preferred method of transportation. When the frigid temperatures of January and February roll in, and Lake Erie freezes solid, ice shanties cover the nearshore as fishermen and women load up on tasty walleye. When possible, old Christmas Trees are used by ice guides to make a trail across the ice to the mainland for those hearty souls willing to make the trip.

While Put-in-Bay may host hundreds of thousands of tourists in the spring-summer & fall, only a select few will ever witness her beauty and solitude in the frigid winter months, and perhaps that’s by design.