Alaska Airlines targets Delta’s Salt Lake City hub after Delta’s short-haul expansion in Seattle-Tacoma
While US carriers as a whole enjoyed a highly profitable 2013, the country’s two most profitable airlines (based on operating margin) according to Airline Weekly were Allegiant Air (15.5%) and Alaska Airlines (12.4%). While Allegiant Air is very much a niche carrier which avoids competition with other carriers, Alaska Airlines (and its subsidiary Horizon Air) is more of a traditional carrier, with a major hub in Seattle-Tacoma and regular all year-round flights.
The airline has been consistently profitable in recent years and its passenger numbers passed 26 million for the first time in 2013. With a fleet of over 130 737s (Alaska Airlines) and over 50 Q400s (Horizon Air) the airline’s growth has been solid rather than spectacular in recent years.
Seattle-Tacoma still dominates despite growing competition from Delta Air Lines
Alaska Airlines’ main base is at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, from where it operates a network of over 70 routes. Last November it added Colorado Springs and Omaha to its Seattle-Tacoma network, both routes operated daily with Q400s. The airline’s highest frequency routes from Seattle-Tacoma this August are Portland (164 weekly departures), Anchorage (131), Spokane (116) and Los Angeles (87).
The airline is coming under growing pressure in Seattle-Tacoma from Delta which wants to make the airport a major gateway for its Asian routes. However, the obvious plan of coming to an agreement with Alaska Airlines to provide short-haul feed for its long-haul routes has not proved appealing enough to the local carrier, and so Delta has rapidly been growing its short-haul network at the airport, overlapping significantly with Alaska Airlines.It is worth noting that the only airports among the airline’s top 12 which are seeing year-on-year cuts in seat capacity, are the airline’s three biggest airports in Alaska; Anchorage, which may soon be overtaken by Los Angeles as the airline’s third busiest airport, Juneau and Fairbanks.
Other new services the airline plans to launch this year include Seattle-Tacoma to Albuquerque, Detroit and Baltimore/Washington in September, as well as daily flights to Cancun starting in November.