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Posts tagged Alaska Airlines

new_alaska_livery

Alaska Airlines announced today that they will start non-stop service between Portland, Oregon and Orlando, Florida. The route will start in March of 2017 and will be a daily service. What is interesting, and a great feature, is that both the outbound and return flights will operate during the day, meaning you don’t have to a take a red-eye to get to Florida.

The Portland to Orlando segment will leave at 6:40am Pacific and will arrive in Florida at 3:15pm Eastern. The return Orlando to Portland flight will leave at 4:15pm Eastern and land in Portland at 7:35pm Pacific.

As a resident I am happy to see more growth at Portland but I worry that the airport facilities are not growing at the same pace. The Alaska Airlines side of the airport is very crowded but that will be changing in the future as Alaska move their operations to the E gates on the opposite side of the airport.

Big thanks to Seth for giving me the heads up the announcement.

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-400 "Combi"
In the exciting or “happy to hear it” news department, Alaska Airlines and Japan Airlines announced a partnership this morning. The partnership will start on June 29, 2016 and will allow customers to earn miles on each carrier and other partner benefits. However, the press release does not go into detail on earning rates or the redemption rates, but it’s clear from Alaska’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, Andrew Harrison, that those details are coming.

“For the first time, our members will be able to earn and redeem miles within Japan, taking advantage of 600 daily flights on JAL’s broad domestic network.”

I have always thought that Japan was a gap for Alaska Airlines. You could fly Delta or American but in a lot of cases it required a connection, sometimes two. The Japan Airlines partnership opens up a number of California non-stops into Japan. There is also the Japan Airlines flight from Vancouver, B.C. though that means going through Canadian transit immigration. In any case, I am excited about not having to overfly Japan to just fly back on Cathay Pacific. This partnership also opens up a bunch of connections out of Tokyo. Off the top of my head it makes parts of China, Japan, and some southeast Asia destinations really easy to reach.

Alaska Airlines continues to impress me with their growth and planning, let’s hope it carries into the merger with Virgin America.

Delta has been growing their Seattle hub operation over the last couple of years, trying to cultivate a west coast hub that can serve Asia as well as some domestic U.S. destinations and parts of Europe. They released a new commercial recently, that you can watch below, that is directly targeting their Seattle market.

The general consensus is that the commercial doesn’t really get Seattle or the Pacific Northwest. I can see that. The ad doesn’t say much except to give a nod to Seattle’s proximity to both Tokyo and London and how the city has momentum (whatever that means).

More concerning than the commercial is a recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune where Delta’s new CEO had some interesting thoughts on the airline’s future plans in China.

In September 2014, then-CEO Richard Anderson told a group in Minnesota that Delta hoped to explore a new nonstop route from MSP to China “in the next three to five years.”

Bastian, who has served as president since 2007, succeeded Anderson, who formally retired Monday. Bastian said he also believes an MSP-to-China route “would be an ideal opportunity” once Delta receives its new Airbus 350 planes — which will replace the retiring Boeing 747 aircraft — next year, and if U.S. carriers are granted more traffic rights in China. Foreign governments negotiate how many flights from each country it will allow to operate within its borders.

So why is Delta focused on building their Minneapolis hub’s reach in China when they have a rather large presence in Seattle, where they can use aircraft that don’t require ultra-long ranges? I am not sure. It seems like the complete opposite of what they were originally trying to do when they opened the hub in Seattle. United has started flying to non-top tier airports in China out of San Francisco, capturing a part of the market that Delta will quickly lose unless they make a move soon. By spreading their transpacific flights over multiple hubs I am a little worried that they are diluting themselves and not really building up the Seattle base. There has already been a slight withdrawal with the reduction of Seattle-Hong Kong and threats to stop flying to Tokyo from a number of U.S. airports if they are not granted certain slots at Tokyo-Haneda. One has to wonder how much more Delta’s presence at Seattle will retract all while they release commercials touting its awesomeness as a hub.

As Jon Ostrower from the Wall Street Journal reports:

That means Alaska will have 349 aircraft at their disposal after all deliveries are made and the merger is completed. That is a huge increase for them and even with the retirement of 15 Bombardier Q400s by 2018, they will still have a very big fleet for the size of the operation they are running now.

Route growth has to be on the horizon then (no pun intended). With the Virgin America merger it is clear that Alaska will increase their presence in San Francisco. I would not be surprised to see them keep Virgin America’s transcontinental routes to JFK and Boston but I could also see them flying a number of west coast routes that are underserved by United, Delta, and American.

The big unknown is what happens to Alaska’s presence at Seattle. They have the planes for growth but Seattle is already overcrowded and I don’t know that Alaska has the gates to start a whole of new flights. I guess theortically they could park the E175s at the regional gates and have passengers walk outside to the planes, but even that area is a mess during the morning and evening rush hours.

This could also mean the end of the contract that Alaska has with SkyWest for operation of CRJ-700 and E175 regional jets to a number of destinations. SkyWest currently flies routes like Seattle-Milwaukee and Portland-Austin on E175 and Portland-Tuscon with CRJ-700s. To responsibly grow, Alaska may start operating those routes with their own planes and pilots via the Horizon Air subsidiary.

All of this to say, it is going to be interesting to see a rather niche carrier like Alaska navigate the waters of huge growth without overextending themselves in terms of passenger capacity and the physical limitations they will face at Seattle and Portland.

Alaska Airlines, arguably the hometown airline of Seattle, Portland, and Anchorage, unveiled a their new brand and livery at an event yesterday in Seattle.

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In a blog post, they give details on why they are refreshing the brand and a few insights into why they went the direction they did.

“We’ve added 90 new markets in the past five years. As we continue to grow, we are updating the outward expression of our brand so it shows up bolder wherever we fly.”

Essentially, we now fly Boston to San Diego non-stop and want to make our logo simpler for that market. I get it, it is not like they were going to change the name of the airline or anything. The first thing that stands out to me though is how close the new tail livery looks to some of the low cost carriers and how the entire livery looks a little Southwest-ish. The second thing is what I pointed out to Seth yesterday, the multicolored cheat lines look like the engines are spewing out the Northern Lights.

southwestlivery

Maybe that’s what Alaska was going for. The colors also match up pretty well to the Seattle Seahawks, the Mariners, and Sound Transit System. Coincidence?

I am no branding or livery expert but I just find the new look to be less Alaska and more Spirit/Southwest/Frontier. Maybe that is what they were going for. There is even a hint of Eurowings in there. There is a pretty great breakdown of the entire brand, livery, and other customer facing materials at Under Consideration. Their impression? Underwhelmed.

Overall, it’s not a highly inspiring redesign and rather than double-down on the quirkiness and ruggedness of the brand equity established they have moved away to safer territory.

Maybe Alaska should have gone to an all retro livery… (to be fair, some of the colors do match up)

old_alaska

— Updated at 12:30pm PST

I should add, if employees like the new look and it motivates them to better serve customers, then I am all for it. From the video of the unveiling of the new brand it does seem like the employees are excited about it and that’s a good thing.

After our move to Portland last year, I decided to match my United 1K status to Alaska Airlines. At the time, there were rumors that Alaska was matching top tier statuses from other airlines with their Gold 75K status, so I gave it a shot. A few weeks after submitting the match I received my credentials in the mail and sure enough, Gold 75K was what they gave me.


Since then I have not had much of an opportunity to fly on Alaska. Most of trips early in the year were to places they don’t fly or where their prices were not competitive. But recently Alaska Airlines has started offering flights between Seattle and Milwaukee and it has been perfect for my work trips. The flights are operated by Skywest using Embraer E-175s, a regional jet that doesn’t feel like a regional jet. They can hold normal sized carry-on bags in the overhead bins, they have tall ceilings, and for most carriers, they have a first class cabin.

My first trip on Alaska’s new Skywest E175 service was a return from Milwaukee to Seattle on the second day the flight operated. I had been upgraded to first class shortly after booking. The only seats available were the set of two in the bulkhead. Not my favorite seats, but I was not going to complain. At the airport, there was an agent helping customers use the kiosk as well as two agents helping at the counter to check bags and print boarding passes. All were very friendly and seemed excited about the new service. I arrived with a little more than an hour until boarding but with PreCheck, I was through security and at the gate very quickly. Not much more waiting and they were already announcing boarding for families with children under two and those needing extra assistance. Then active duty military were called and first class. Walking onboard I got a good whiff of “new plane smell” which, I have to say, is like new car smell just a bit more expensive.

The flight attendants had already placed small Dasani water bottles at every seat and were greeting passengers as they boarded. They both seemed excited about the new planes, the new service, and just happy to be there. It was refreshing. The plane did not take long to board and we pushed back from the gate right on schedule, the captain telling us it would be right at four hours until wheels down in Seattle. I was actually seated next to a pilot who explained that for the first few days of service, Alaska and Skywest were flying an extra crew to operate the return flight just in case there was a storm or other delay that would cause the original crew to time out and cancel the flight. He was gracious and answered all of my questions about the E-175 and the Skywest service for all of the different carriers. It seemed like he enjoyed his job and was happy to be able to fly the E-175 for multiple carriers now.

Shortly after takeoff the flight attendant visited each passenger, asking them what they wanted to drink and whether or not they would be having dinner. I asked for an Alaskan Amber and mentioned that yes, I would be having dinner. I expected to hear choices for dinner but none were presented. A short time later and the Alaskan Amber and plastic ramekin of nuts was delivered (the nuts had been heated). A little while later and the dinner was placed in front of me. The meal consisted of a sandwich, in this case chipotle chicken, a salad, and a cookie. The meal was ok. I am not a fan of those sandwich rounds used for the bread but other than that, it was fine. I will say that I found the portion to be a little small for a flight of four hours. United, on Chicago-Portland in first, serves a large portion meal followed by an ice cream dessert.


On the next flight I took, Seattle to Milwaukee, the meal was a similar sandwich and salad affair but the sandwich was a “Cuban”. I put it in quotes because it had pickles, cheese, and ham but that’s about where the similarities between what I ate and a what Cuban sandwich is end.

 
Let’s talk about the seat for a minute. It’s a simple first class seat with a power outlet for each passenger. The headrest is adjustable and the recline is nice. Other than that, it’s a basic seat. There is also supposed to be WiFi and streaming entertainment but neither of these have been available on any of the flights I have been on, though I am told it is definitely coming.


Overall, Alaska’s E-175 offering is a great option to get from the Pacific Northwest to Milwaukee. The food leaves a little to be desired but it’s non-stop from Seattle (I do wish it left a little earlier) and the operation seems to be pretty solid. I have taken thes flights between Seattle and Milwaukee about 5 times so far and the only inconsistency I’ve noticed is in the flight attendant service. I think this will work itself out once they are used to operating for Alaska on the E-175s, but there were a few times where the crew did not know how to operate some of the equipment or handle the service. Definitely nothing that is a deal breaker for me. I am just happy to have another option where I do not have to connect through Chicago.