Alaska “Welcomes” Virgin America to Seattle

Alaska Airlines, LAX - Los Angeles, SEA - Seattle, SFO - San Francisco, Virgin America

Alaska, always the gentleman, has decided to roll out the red carpet for Virgin America’s upcoming arrival in Seattle by announcing a bunch of new flights and double bonus miles. Wait, that’s not very welcoming, is it?

08_01_16 vxseaAlaska has effectively decided to turn their Seattle – California services into a shuttle-style operation with flights either on the hour or half hour starting April 27. From Seattle to LAX, southbound flights will depart 15 times daily on the hour (up from 12 daily) while northbound flights will depart on the half hour. Flights to San Diego, Orange County, Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose will follow the same schedule, but they’ll run every two hours.

If the flight times aren’t good enough, maybe you’ll like the mileage promo. Fly twice from March 15 through May 15 between Seattle and LAX or SFO and you’ll get double miles for every trip on those routes from May 16 through the end of the year.

This seems like a particularly nasty response to Virgin America’s impending entry, wouldn’t you say? I mean, VX will have 3 flights a day to SFO and 4 to LAX when they’re at full strength. These moves make the VX schedule look like nothing, but then again it already looked that way before.

Is the demand really there for this? Maybe. I mean, United has pulled capacity in those markets over the last few years, and Delta is only flying RJs, so there isn’t nearly as many flights as there has been in the past. The shuttle-style service will probably be well-received so this could be ok for them, but I’d be surprised.

How are they adding these flights? Well, they’re canceling the Orange County – Oakland route. That competed with Southwest anyway, so it’s probably a better move to cancel those. Whether this is the best use of those aircraft is questionable.

But let’s be honest, they wouldn’t be doing this without the VX threat. These are two of their biggest markets (if not the top 2), and they are not going to let VX establish even the tiniest of presences without a fight. Which once again makes me wonder why VX would bother with a market like this. It’s not like Alaska is a weakling that people hate. VX is just asking for it.

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9 comments on “Alaska “Welcomes” Virgin America to Seattle

  1. Have you been on a VX plane yet????
    Although their schedule is leaner, the product and service is in a league of it’s own. I’m sure they will price to match Alaska, and they have a business model that can survive the lower price tag. VX is rapidly gaining loyal followers, so I wouldn’t discount their ability to hold their own despite this kick in the shins.

  2. It’s always good to hear from the VX employees (At least, I assume you’re an employee since your comment came from a VX IP address).

    I have heard that the product is fantastic, and I am hoping to have a chance to sample it soon, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be able to make money. We know that the #1 and #2 things people look for are price and schedule. Alaska certainly has a huge advantage in the latter and we’ll know more about the former when it gets closer. Something tells me that Alaska is not going to let up at all.

    You’re talking about a 2 to 2 1/2 hour flight here, and in a market like that, product doesn’t matter nearly as much as in a transcon. Yeah, I’d like to have TV, but if my meeting finishes early and I have to sit around for 3 hours instead of hopping on earlier flight, I’d rather take the earlier flight that has no TV.

    VX will have its best shot with leisure customers, but with the fuel the way it is right now, you need a lot more high paying passengers to make some money. Maybe they need some more first class seats onboard . . .

  3. Also, Alaska is agressively updating their fleet to 737-800/900 aircraft and getting rid of those old MD aircraft. As they upgrade I’m sure they are looking at adding amenities. Another plus for Alaska is their participation with SkyTeam airlines and American Airlines. They allow a much greater route network than VX on top of greater frequency.

  4. SEA is my secondary airport (YVR is home), and frankly anything that keeps prices down in the market makes me happy. If the VX entry, along with Southwest’s SEA presence, can make it cheaper for me to fly to California or anyplace, hooray.

    Meanwhile, as a frequent Alaska flier, I have to say I find their service to be completely fine…especially since they got rid of those embarrassingly silly religious cards that used to come on the food tray.

  5. First of all to Cranky, isn’t ANC-SEA AS’ top route? And note that both UA and AS have had mixed skeds of mainline + RJs flying SEA-LAX since the summer.

    To the point about amenities, note that AS is scheduled to do a test of WiFi (albeit on one ship only) this spring.

    And the religious cards are absolutely still on the meal trays — it’s just that only F still gets trays.

    Not sure who outside of a VX IP address thinks VX is going to have any different fate than Independence. Fuel is $100, they have no feed and they’re fighting entrenched majors with big FF programs, and feed, and corporate contracts.

  6. Ok Geoff, I’ve gone in and looked at October T100 data. By # of passengers, ANC-SEA is #1. LAX-SEA is #2 and SFO-SEA is #5. The only thing that changes if you look at rankings by number of seats and departures is that SFO-SEA falls to #7.

  7. Many of us regulars on the OAK to SNA are very disappointed with Alaska abandoning this route. Having been a happy customer (on the OAK – SNA, OAK – SEA routes)for over 10 years (and currently having 720k miles ff miles), Alaska just lost a faithful customer (one of many)to Southwest.

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