Alaska Airlines began flying smaller, turboprop planes between Anchorage and Fairbanks earlier this year. They also flew summer routes between Anchorage and Kodiak.
Alaska Vice President Marilyn Romano says they’re cheaper to operate.
“It’s a cost savings because you’re not using a jet that’s designed for a longer flight, and running it back and forth on a very short segment. And so by doing that, then you take it to the next level. Our ultimate goal was to bring down our costs. Then we could, at the same time, look at bringing down fares.”
Romano says some cheaper fares went into place last spring and more are coming. She says they’re separate from steep discounts on summer Seattle-Juneau flights that came after Delta Air Lines began competing on that route.
It’s fairly difficult to pin down those discounts, because of the large number of factors affecting fares. Our own comparison showed some current prices lower and some higher than last fall, winter or spring.
Airline officials were reluctant to release such details, but did provide a few examples.
They say a one-way fare from Juneau to Anchorage purchased two weeks in advance has dropped around 10 percent. Ketchikan to Sitka is down about 12 and a half percent. And Juneau to Seattle was discounted by about a third.
It’s part of a larger effort to make sure Alaskans stay with the airline, if they’re booking a route where they have a choice.
“We have over 500,000 mileage plan members in the state of Alaska. And of that number, we’re over 330,000 Club 49 members.”
Alaska Airlines is also adding new interiors to more jets flying in its namesake state.
The airlines’ three larger models have new seats by designed by Recaro, which also makes racing-car seating.
Romano says they’re thinner with the same comfort level and allow for more leg room. Industry observers say they also allow airlines to put more passengers on planes. But they have another feature: They include outlets than can power laptops, tablets and cell phones.
Those seats are mostly on flights traveling longer routes, such as Juneau-Anchorage. They’re not being put on smaller jets, such as “combis,” which fly to smaller communities. Combis carry passengers and freight.
But Romano says smaller aircraft are getting recycled interiors from larger jets with the new seating.
“You’re going to see some newer seats, even on Combis. We’re switching out some of the older seats and putting in newer seats. They’re not Recaro seats, but they’re newer.”
She says smaller communities may occasionally see more recent jets when larger passenger loads are expected.