Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Alaska Airlines to connect existing markets

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-990(ER) (41732/4296) N408AS arrives at Anchorage - Ted Stevens International Airport (ANC/PANC) on May 5, 2013.
(Photo by Michael Carter) 

Alaska Airlines is shifting focus after years of investing heavily in its Seattle hub to making connections between existing markets.

The carrier has added 24 new cities since 2010, mostly from Seattle, and now serves 86 markets from that hub, Alaska VP-capacity planning John Kirby told ATW’s sister publication Aviation Daily at the Boyd Group’s International Aviation Forecast Summit.

Alaska has maintained its 51% market share of the Seattle hub, despite Delta Air Lines’ adding a tremendous amount of capacity from that city in recent years. “This shows just how much they’ve added and we’ve grown,” Kirby said. The two carriers—and codeshare partners— for several years were adding capacity in a struggle for market dominance in Seattle.

“Competition has made us a better airline,” Kirby said. “Alaska has always been a great airline with great customer service, but we really had to step up our game as Delta grew their capacity.”

“In the last few years, we invested heavily in Seattle,” Kirby said. “We wanted to make sure that hub is a very robust and strong operation.” But now the carrier is turning its attention to other markets. It is adding mid-continent destinations from Portland, Oregon, such as St. Louis, Missouri, and Omaha, Nebraska, and increasing some transcontinental flights from cities such as San Diego, from where it recently started service to Boston and Orlando, Florida, he said.

Alaska is also launching flights to its first new international destination in 25 years—Costa Rica. The airline will launch Los Angeles-San Juan, Costa Rica on Oct. 31, and Los Angeles-Liberia, Costa Rica on Nov. 1. The flights now are expected to be 4X-weekly, with a plan to make them daily in the near future, Kirby said.

The carrier is studying other Central American and South American routes, but is limited by the range of its Boeing 737 fleet. The 737 MAX aircraft, which are expected to be delivered in 2017, could expand market possibilities. “We’re looking at routes to Mexico, Central and the northern tier of South America,” Kirby said. These flights would most likely operate from Southern California. “It’s harder to get [to South America] from Seattle,” he said.

In addition, Alaska is expanding its West Coast-Hawaii network, which is now 26 daily flights on peak days during the peak season. This is up from three Hawaii frequencies in 2008, Kirby said. The carrier’s strategy in Hawaii has been changing to connect West Coast cities with cities other than Honolulu. 

(Madhu Unnikrishnan - ATWOnline News)

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