I was sorry to hear about Gordon's experiences at Katmai National Park. Although the tight time was probably weather-related, it certainly sounds as though the people should have tried to be more pleasant.
FWIW, the flying in this part of Alaska has been generally dangerous throughout the summer of 2010 because of unusually bad flying weather for the past several months. This seems to be an El Nino related condition. Many experienced pilots have been killed in the past two months because of bad weather conditions and in fact a Katmai National Park plane with four persons aboard is still missing despite a week of intensive search. Personally, I've mostly stayed on the ground this summer.
There are other, less-expensive bear viewing options for visitors. Many air taxi flights leave out of the modern airports at Soldotna, Kenai, and Homer. These small but modern cities are located on the Kenai Peninsula and are only a few hours drive from Anchorage. Air taxi flights can be chartered from Soldotna and Kenai to Big River Lakes, which is less crowded than Katmai. As a bonus, you can fish there yourself during the sockeye (red) salmon season. Depending upon the size of the salmon run, the daily limit is 3-6 fish. Big River Lakes are located just north of Redoubt Volcano, mostly recently active in 2009.
From Homer, Alaska, it's a relatively short float plane trip to the famous McNeil River bear viewing area just north of Katmai National Park or to Hallo Bay, which is located on the Gulf of Alaska coast on the eastern side of Katmai National Park.
Some private bear biologists are available to accompany viewers. One Soldotna biologist, Dr. Steve Stringham, has recently written several books about bear behavior. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org