3 Links I Love: Alaska’s New Secondary Seattle Airport, Terry Maxon on the Airlines, Qantas 72 Humanized

Alaska Airlines, Links I Love, Qantas

This week’s featured link:
New flying out of Paine Field will ease commuting pain for manyAlaska Airlines Blog
Alaska has been trying to replicate its successful Pacific Northwest strategy down in California, but now it’s bringing something it learned in California back north. In California, Alaska has learned that serving secondary airports in major markets can work wonders. It’s now going to try that out in Seattle by starting 9 daily flights from Paine Field, the home of Boeing’s widebody assembly lines. We don’t know where the flights are going yet, but you’d think it may be a mix of leisure and business. I’m not very hopeful that this strategy will work from a business perspective.

Paine Field is just too close to Seattle at about 40 miles away (and anywhere from 45 minutes to 300 hours depending upon traffic). With only 9 flights to be spread out across multiple markets, it’s hard to imagine there being enough frequency to be able to lure the business traveler away from Seattle. Maybe the chance of flying from Paine can help cement loyalty to Alaska in that area, however, and keep people from defecting to Delta. It’s hard to know.

Leisure has a better shot. Maybe throw some airplanes into Hawai’i and see if you can pull people off Delta and Hawaiian. I’m not really convinced about this one, but I can see some reasons to try it strategically.

Two for the road:
Do Social Media Nightmares Really Mean the Airlines Are Out of Control?Dallas Observer
Oh sure, plenty of people are opining about the airlines these days. But it’s not often you get to see Terry Maxon, former airlines reporter for the Dallas Morning News, come out of retirement to give his thoughts. There’s a lot of levity in here about the state of things today. While I don’t agree with the last paragraph that regulation is needed, it’s still a worthwhile read.

The terrifying untold story of QF72: What happens when ‘psycho’ automation leaves pilots powerless?stuff
Remember when that Qantas A330 flipped out nearly a decade ago? Alright, you probably don’t, but the now-retired Captain of that flight is finally talking about what happened and it’s unnerving. The incident report came out long ago, so it’s not a surprise, but I think it’s always more jarring when you hear the human angle on the story.

Get Cranky in Your Inbox!

The airline industry moves fast. Sign up and get every Cranky post in your inbox for free.

30 comments on “3 Links I Love: Alaska’s New Secondary Seattle Airport, Terry Maxon on the Airlines, Qantas 72 Humanized

  1. I do also like Terry’ column except for the last paragraph. problem with the argument about regulation is that the social media complaints don’t have anything to do with seat space. When people won’t check articles which the airline seats don’t fit, or they get up to go to the toilet just as the plane is cleared for takeoff, or they take seats that weren’t assigned, there is a clear operational issue that simply can’t just be swept under the rug. The MEANS that airline employees use to resolve customer complaints needs to be refined but Americans in many ways are famous among all cultures of thinking they can do whatever they want and failing to follow group norms which other cultures recognize as normal. You can’t regulate being a decent and polite citizen and SOME Americans can’t be surprised if they are treated the way they treat others which is often with contempt and superiority.

    as for the seat size regulation argument, all of the suggestions are so far removed from what exists today that they would never fly because it would be the end of discount fares – and we know Washington will never cave to a very real argument that air fares would have to increase in order to cover fewer passengers on a plane.

  2. Think about the lack of gates and overnight Aircraft parking constraints at SEA, along with the fact that you have the highest per capital income in Snahomish County. I can see GEG, PDX, SFO and 5x weekly LIH/OGG combo working out. A little mainline and Q400 action to drive a longer term profitability plan. The question I wonder is how much will Propeller Inc charge for the facility.

  3. Given that the current constraints at SEA, I can see the rationale for AS to try this out. If anything, a couple of flights to California and more regular PDX service for onward connections wouldn’t draw traffic away from SEA so much as complement their existing schedule there for people agnostic to either airport.

    And with regional jets to big AS markets with some opportunistic mainline flights to Alaska or Hawaii during the high season, it doesn’t have to be all that much of a risk.

    1. The real question is not so much geography but the cost of acquiring space at alternate airports and the competitive advantage that AS will gain by having operations at another airport. By taking about half of the flights PAE can handle, AS assures that no one else can get a large foothold in Seattle but we don’t know how much AS is paying for that privilege.
      Also, because SEA is AK’s HDQ and largest hub, they at best are going to fly a few point to point markets or shuttle passengers down to SFO or PDX and I am guessing SFO now makes more sense post-merger.
      still other hub carriers including WN and/or DL could potentially connect more passengers to more cities if they choose to start service because their hubs at other western airports are larger than AS at SFO.
      It will be interesting to see who goes next but I would be that AS paid more per flight than other carriers will.

      1. I don’t doubt that it’d be more expensive per flight relative to both AS and other airlines in other airports. And since I doubt that they’d use larger planes for most of these routes, per-seat costs would also be relatively high. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that this is probably their best means of growing in the Seattle area for the foreseeable future, at least until the SEA expansion.

        Now that I think about it though, space at SFO and LAX will still come at a premium even for a post-merger AS. I wouldn’t be surprised if they choose not to allocate those kinds of assets to support flying from Paine.

  4. Paine Field could be successful. business travelers from the north and east ‘burbs would not have to traverse the city to get to SeaTac. business flights to high-volume cities could make sense.

  5. I didn’t know there was a passenger terminal at Paine Field. It would be fun to fly in and out of there and getting to see all the new big Boeing metal. Not sure if I agree this isn’t a good strategy. Geography makes traveling in Seattle a serious headache and if you’re on the north side you basically only have 5 or 405 to get down the Seatac. The question is if there is enough population in Seattle to support multiple airports. It’s a big city but it’s not LA or Dallas or Chicago, DC, etc. All the metros that support multiple airports are significantly larger in total population.

  6. I agree with Terry insomuch as I don’t think people realize exactly how much of a powder keg airports and air travel can be due to the crowds and the, certainly in many cases, inadequate number of seats, restrooms, long-lines for security etc. etc. The environment of many airports is already priming people to be angry and upset, and then you throw them onto ever increasingly crowded planes and seats, and you have a recipe for being reacting poorly.

  7. The equal time point between SEA and PAE, parking and security included, is probably south of downtown Seattle. If prices are comparable it’s not hard to imagine PAE having a huge catchment area of people who’d prefer its lower hassle and less painful traffic to SEA. If you live north of the ship canal there’s no reason not to go to PAE if your desired flight exists there.

  8. Paine is 40 miles from SEA? SFO and OAK are a lot closer. People who live on the north side of Seattle will be delighted to fly via Paine.

    1. Cranky nailed it in terms of why it’s going to be successful:

      “anywhere from 45 minutes to 300 hours depending upon traffic”

      The uncertainty associated to reliability on I-5 and I-405 will make Paine a great option for everyone North and East of Seattle. Plus they will have a direct transit connection that will cement it as a future primary airport for Seattle.

    2. Personally, I’m really looking forward to being able to fly out of KPAE. Depending on where the terminal ends up, it could be within reasonable walking distance from my house.

      I’m envisioning something like exists at KBLI.

  9. Hi,

    Thanks for the story: “Qantas 72 Humanized”. This detailed story about the multiple simultaneous computer system failures, uncommanded control inputs, and resultant crew and passenger injuries is very poignant. Even those of us living in Australia never knew much about this incident beyond the brief and superficial news reports at the time. It seems so true that “the plane was trying to kill them”! I wish your article had gone on further to report what transpired later after landing, to say what damage happened to the plane, how was it retrieved and repaired; what after landing happened to the passengers, and how were they retrieved to Perth etc. after landing; what did Airbus and Qantas do in the immediate aftermath of this event, etc. – but I am grateful that you published at least what you did.


  10. And another possible reason for Alaska going into Paine Field is — they couldn’t be sure that Delta wasn’t contemplaing the same move. It’s better to get there first.

  11. 1) It doesn’t feel like California where there are large populations in lots of places. San Jose is about 45 miles from San Francisco and both are large cities. Same with Santa Ana and Los Angeles. My memories of driving through Everett is that it’s not the same.

    2) I think a lot of the airlines problem is that they are in the right but their employees have provided poor explanations. IDB is never a random process though that’s how it was reported in the media. You can’t use a seat for someone other than the ticketed passenger even if you did pay for the seat. You can’t being on a double wide stroller. If the agents were clear at first, maybe these viral videos would have never happened.

    3) It’s never good when computers are controlling the humans, not the other way around.

    1. The number of Boeing people actually working in Chicago is minimal, and most of the corp. people remained in WA. They got the corporate tax break for the “move” and all their employees still maintain work status in Washington where there are no income taxes.


  12. I liked what Terry said in his column. And I also believe that Congress will impose something. However this situation is not as nearly clean cut as was the Tarmac Delay rule. The CEO at WN gave an interview to Biz Journals today talking about the lack of civility that is sadly the hallmark of today’s flying. I don’t have the answer to this-if I would guess some rule about seat pinch maybe. And while not a (direct) part of this conversation, but could make the flying experience different for everybody-TSA is looking at banning any electronics larger than a cell phone in the cabin. I know right now they are saying just from certain locations-but the bureaucratic mind just loves a one size fits all solution-and it wouldn’t take much to make it a world wide ban.

  13. Why don’t you agree that regulation is needed regarding space in economy coach? I think Mr Maxon makes a pretty good argument.

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    1. Join the discussion I didn’t say I agreed or dis-agreed with Congress or the FAA having a reg on seat pinch. I said I thought that might be what the outcome could be. My personal opinion-I think Seat Pinch should have a minimum-29 inches is not only painful, but it also on a long haul flight can lead to all sorts of nasty problems, such as blood clots. But increased seat pinch-would that have stopped the near riot at FLL? I doubt it. Like I said-I don’t know what the Feds will do, if anything.

    2. djaszka – As long as there isn’t a safety issue, then I don’t think it needs to be regulated. People can choose to sit in seats with more legroom if they want. Or they can choose to fly airlines with more legroom. If there is a safety issue, then yes, it should be regulated.

      1. And I wish more people would just that. But it isn’t happening enough, so you see the likes of UA and AA squeeze more seats into their aircraft (10-across 777, 9-across 787, more rows in 737, …)

  14. If you’re suggesting that CA airports like OAK or SNA are secondary, and then comparing those to PAE, you’re comparing two very different types of airports. Depending on your definition of secondary, I wouldn’t say Alaska serves any secondary airports in CA because they’re all high volume established airports.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cranky Flier