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Horizon to Go All Q400 and Other Interesting Alaska Notes

There were a couple of interesting things to come out of Alaska Air Group’s first quarter earnings last week. The most interesting item? Horizon will drop all of its 20 CRJ-700 aircraft in the next 2 years. That combined with the previously announced ditching of the smaller Q200 aircraft means that the airline will only operate 48 of the 76-seat Q400s. That’s a major downscaling of the airline, but Horizon expects to be able to shrink its workforce through attrition.

It’s a very interesting move for an airline that serves some pretty long routes. What about some of those longer flights that the CR7 flew? Flights like LAX to Portland and Santa Barbara to Seattle? Assuming that’s too far for the Q400 to fly (is that even a fair assumption?), the smallest plane in the Alaska fleet will be the 737-700 which seats 124. Can they justify putting that much more capacity on some of these routes? I’m not sure.

Questions at the other end of the spectrum arose when Horizon decided to ditch its smaller Q200 aircraft. Can Wenatchee, Lewiston, and Pendleton really support flights on planes that seat 76 people? I’d be surprised. I sense some big route changes coming as they rationalize the fleet.

Meanwhile, big brother Alaska has also announced a variety of fee changes that are bound to annoy travelers, no matter how necessary they are.

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air plan to raise certain fees to better align them with the current costs of providing added services. These include increasing the charge for booking through reservations and airport sales agents from $10 to $15, raising the fee for overweight baggage from $25 to $50, increasing the charge for transporting pets in the cabin from $75 to $100 one-way, and raising the unaccompanied minor fee from $30 to $75 for one-way nonstop flights and from $60 to $75 for connecting flights. The increases are effective May 21, 2008. By summer, the airlines also will begin charging $25 for a second checked bag. First class and top-tier Mileage Plan members and customers on flights within the state of Alaska will be exempt from the new fee.

That’s a lot of change, but I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures.

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