Alaska Airlines is the fifth largest airline in the U.S., but despite its name, it operates its main routes from Seattle-Tacoma Airport. The state it represents has only a small portion of its flight network and for this reason it is surprising that some of its planes have never flown in the region, as is the case with the Embraer E175.
This situation, however, is about to change. Alaska announced this week that it will place the Brazilian regional jet on flights in the state starting in October. The aircraft belong to its subsidiary Horizon Air and are configured with 76 seats in three classes – in order to comply with the scope clause of US airlines.
“Alaskans who have flown the E175 jet in the Lower 48 have frequently asked when they might see the plane in the state, and we’re thrilled the time has come,” said Marilyn Romano, regional vice president.
The decision to take E175 to Alaska has to do with the coronavirus pandemic. The airline usually flies on routes between Anchorage and small towns in the state with Boeing 737 jets, but social distancing restrictions have prevented the company from flying to smaller communities.
“This jet gives us the flexibility to increase daily frequency between Anchorage and Fairbanks up to seven times a day, and to provide year-round service to King Salmon and Dillingham. In time, the new mix of aircraft will unlock other markets in the state for future service,” explained Romano.
Alaska serves the Great Land region, which has been located in the middle of the state for 88 years and considers the Brazilian aircraft the solution for not interrupting service.
With about 330 aircraft, Alaska Airlines is one of the largest operators of the Boeing 737, including the 737-900 variant, the largest in the NG series. The company also has A320 jets inherited from Virgin America, which was incorporated in 2016. The E175 fleet comprises 62 aircraft, 30 of them from Horizon Air and 32 from SkyWest Airlines, which is subcontracted by Alaska.
The Alaska Airlines announcement confirms a trend pointed out by experts that airlines should opt for smaller aircraft in the post-pandemic. With reduced passenger demand, it will be more economical to serve destinations with smaller capacity planes in order to maintain a greater variety of flights and also service at smaller airports.