Horizon to Go All Q400 and Other Interesting Alaska Notes

Alaska Airlines, Horizon

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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10 comments on “Horizon to Go All Q400 and Other Interesting Alaska Notes

  1. The Q400 does have a 1,300 mile range, so it could fly most of the same routes as the CRJ700. However, the economic point is somewhere around 600 miles. At that point the fuel burn to flight time value begins to swing back toward the CRJ.

    The Q400 is also a pretty nice aircraft to fly in. The noise and vibration reduction technology is pretty good assuming you aren’t sitting right next to the prop, but the same goes for sitting in the back of a CRJ.

  2. I guess that Horizon Q200 I’m flying SEA-EAT in late May will be more interesting now because it’s on the way out of the fleet.

    But, overall it will be crappy because by then they will have started charging for a 2nd bag.

  3. LAX-Portland might be within the Q400’s range but you don’t want to sit in one of these things for long. Yes the anti-vibration technology does provide a better cabin environment than the older Dash-8 models but it’s still a small, cramped, noisy turboprop!

  4. I’d guess they will reduce their SEA-PDX shuttle-like frequency due to the usage of the Q400 instead of the Q200?

    Hope they don’t stop the free beer on that route ;)

  5. EAT (Wenatchee) to SEA flights are generally pretty full. AK has apparently already reduced the sked from 6 to 5 a day, maybe anticipating fewer flights but more capacity per flight. That could be a good thing re aircraft (no more “vomit comet”) but less beneficial re flight skeds (making connections in Seattle for on-going flights). Overall, still like AK a lot.

  6. Alaska assumes it can skate through with all these fees while everyone has sticker-shock over fuel prices. It’s the “Great Unbundling” as your published air fare really shows less than the total cost of travel. Second bag. Phone reservation. Cat in cabin (should be $5,000 each way).
    The fees are wicked. Satanic. They only go up and they never go away. It’s another way to obscure the true cost. Sad.

  7. Hey everyone, I´m taking a break from my travels to catch up on comments. So . . .

    Dan Hill – I haven´t been on a Q400 myself, so I don´t know how loud it is personally, but I do know that it´s far less cramped than a CRJ. That may not make up for the noise or longer flight time, depending upon your perspective.

    Jeff K – Not sure if they´ll reduce frequency on the shuttle route, but I know they will on other smaller ones. As for the beer, I think (hope!) that´s staying.

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