Topic of the Week: Alaska Keeps Growing

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines may be facing a challenge from Delta in Seattle, but you’d never know it. The airline continues to crank out fantastic financial results, and it’s growing. The latest additions? Seattle will get daily flights to Nashville and Raleigh/Durham with four-times weekly flights to Charleston (the Boeing to Boeing connection). Outside of Seattle, Alaska is launching LAX to Baltimore and for the first time, Costa Rica with flights to San Jose and Liberia.

What do you think of all this growth? Are these good moves?

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17 comments on “Topic of the Week: Alaska Keeps Growing

  1. Indeed AS is a good airlines with equally as good financials. Much has been said and written about how Delta has been encroaching on Alaska’s home territory as well as AS doing the same in the south which is otherwise “DeltaLand.” That all being said, I wonder what Alaska would be doing or what their route map would look like these days (expansion wise) if Delta had not expanded into SEA with their own metal and had continued with AS being mostly their sole feed in the area. Can it be said that with Delta doing just the opposite in Seattle that they in a sense lit a fire under Alaska (and their management) to grow the carrier, to spread its wings into new markets that it probably would not have considered and become more competitive? Then can it be said that in a sense that Alaska has done the same for Delta?

    1. I think that Alaska’s route map would look very similar irrespective of the DL expansion. The only new AS routes that are clearly a response to DL are the handful out of SLC (and most of those Q400s or SkyWest regional jets). Obviously, Alaska’s fares and schedules are a bit different, with I think some more aircraft allocated back to SEA for the fight.

      These new long flights out of SEA and LAX-BWI seem like obvious next-step growth based on their existing transcons from SEA and LAX with little or no direct competition, not radical departures from AS’s long term, obviously-successful strategy. For LAX-BWI, I’m sure they’d prefer another LAX-DCA but don’t have a slot for it; they must feel unable to meet their demand for LAX-WAS.

      I actually find DL’s newly-announced SEA-MCO nonstop more interesting (even though it’s just one 737 on an overnight utilization schedule), since that’s the first new (ie non-DL hub) DL flight from SEA that goes east of DEN.

    2. Daryl, that is an interesting hypothesis. I’d heard from somebody that works at Delta that DL tried to work with AS out of SEA and that AS wasn’t willing to take certain steps that DL needed to grow the new SEA hub with a sufficient amount of domestic codeshare feed so DL decided to grow the feed itself.

      Based on your idea of DL lighting a fire under AS’ management, I’m wondering if DL’s buildup is just a short term strategy to ultimately get AS on board with their SEA strategy in the long run and re-allign AS with the DL SEA international hub. Seattle is a big metropolitan area but it’s not THAT big to support two domestic hubs given it’s geographic position.

  2. With a route like SEA-CHS, even with Boeing-Boeing connection, how much volume would there actually be? I often see on or wherever certain business-2-business ties between cities, but 4 flights per week between the two cities is a lot of capacity. Is the yield so high that a modest load factor is profitable?

  3. I live near SLC and ever since DL bought out WA (Western Airlines in case you may have forgotten) in the 80s, we have not had a lot of choice. What I would pay to fly to LAX someone would pay the same to fly from LAX from BOS! AS invaded about 18 months ago and I have jumped ship, did help right around the time SkyMiles became SkyEliteforthe10%WeCareAbout. DL crews are still top notch but their ground people are becoming the new UA, cranky as ever! DL used to offload a lot of SLC flights to OO, but ever since AS invaded a lot of the competing flight have gone back to DL metal. DL has woken up a bit but I fear it may force DL to either start competing harder or they might just abandon SLC as a hub like they did with CVG. It would not take much for DL to say we are moving the hub to SEA. If that happens I hope AS will continue its awesome SLC service!

  4. Alaska is my favorite. We fly from Seattle so Alaska has long been a favorite. we use the branded credit card, get generous frequent flyer miles that we have used to fly to South America via LAN, another wonderful airline. And the companion ticket is great for trips all over the U.S. And Mexico. Costa Rica, you say? I am in!


  5. AS are expanding on the ground at SEA huge as well. Big improvements to the airport with new gate projects (welcome back the C3 gate which is getting rebuilt now), new walkways for the Horizon & Skywest gates and with the new E175s coming on line it doesn’t get better.

    They are hiring like crazy right now with new flight attendants, CSA’s and there is a backlog of almost 50 ramp staff just waiting to go through training, the airport can’t keep up. Apparently by the end of this summer they want to have Doubled the amount of flights they are currently operating.

  6. As an Alaskan, I love our namesake airline and we are ALL loyal (captive) customers. DL’s flights to Alaska have brought some competition to the in-state markets, especially for visitors. Fares are lower now but the cheap fuel certainly helps.

    The expansion of Alaska’s route map really benefits us loyal customers because the best benefits are when you are on Alaska metal only. The recently added flight to MKE in a OO E175 is one that makes me dance since I avoid ORD for my trips to cheesehead country.

    You can see the impact of the previous round of expansions on load factors (down a few %), so this spreading to lean markets (CHS) can not last forever. I hope management calls the expansion at the right time so there is not damage from over capacity. How much time does Alaska give a new route to develop before they pull back?

  7. I wish when airlines would announce new service they would say what service is being dropped so the new service can begin.

  8. One of my best friends out in the PNW loves AS but when he was a frequent business traveler his comments echoed mine, they don’t take me where I need to be. Just like B6 or VA, could be great airlines I will never know because they don’t have the route network. My travel isn’t between JFK and LAX. Much as I might dislike connecting in airports like ATL, DEN, ORD, DTW or DFW you cannot argue the fact that that those are strategic locations that work very well as domestic hubs. Depending on where I’m going I can hop to any one of those airports and be +/- a couple hours in the right direction to my final destination. The last thing I’m going to do is fly all the way west to SEA just to get to a destination east of me. While the build up is great for some west coast travelers they are still a regional airline until they start building a mid-continent hub…or just build a massive network like WN. Not holding my breath on either of those happening anytime soon.

  9. at some point Alaska’s bubble is going to bust….overly aggressive in expansion on routes that don’t make sense….they are to involved with Delta, someone at Alaska is tossing darts at a map to see where in the south the fly next….is DAB, MLB, JAX, TUL, AMA, LBB, MAF next…..Alaska needs to concentrate on what they know market wise and stop being a baby about Delta’s expansion….there is room for both as their profits show…

    1. RDU and BNA are solid choices for expansion. Both are large enough markets to support non-stop service to the west coast. CHS was a surprise, but I’m thinking the money will be in the cargo side, not the pax.

      I wonder how the SLC flights are working for AS? They keep down-gauging the SJC – SLC flight. That move seemed like a move against DL that might not be the best use of resources.

  10. Alaska flies to a lot of places I want to go from San Jose. Whether it’s a college visit to Bozeman or SJC-Reno for Mother’s Day (so sick of the drive). But I mostly love AS for SJC to Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. Who doesn’t like a complimentary Mai Tai on the way to paradise?

  11. When I lived on the Left Coast I flew Alaska all the time. Great airline. Which they had the bucks to make CVG a hub. Never will happen though.

    rumor has it another airline will fly to CVG. Announcement maybe as soon as next week.

  12. I find it interesting DL has not tried to copy some of the new AS routes or now older but still newer routes like SEA-ABQ though that one might be more of a shot at SWA then DL

  13. “someone at Alaska is tossing darts at a map to see where in the south the fly next….is DAB, MLB, JAX, TUL, AMA, LBB, MAF next…..”

    One of those darts should land at ELP. For the size and population ELP has rather inadequate air service even with WN.

    The lack of adequate air service at ELP makes me want to move up I-25 to ABQ where I end up flying into half the time because half the service out of ELP is on small capacity ERJ’s and CRJ’s. Even AA has downgraded half of their ELP-DFW runs to CR7’s.

  14. It’s very hard for regional airlines to compete when global airlines enter your turf. When a global airline comes in you have to continually give locals and corporations a reason to stay. The only way to do this is to expand your footprint. When a global airline comes in people go from “I love *them” to “I like them but”

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