Seattle-based Alaska Airlines unveiled 13 non-stop routes from the San Francisco Bay Area on Thursday in what the company called its “single largest new market announcement” in its history.
The routes – 10 from San Francisco International and three from nearby San Jose – bolster Alaska Airlines’ position in the Bay Area, where it had already become a major player after its acquisition of San Francisco-based Virgin America.
That deal closed in December, immediately making Alaska Air one of the dominant carriers both in California and all along the West Coast. Alaska Air already operated hubs in Seattle and Portland, Ore., and had a sizeable presence at several California airports, including Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose.
With Virgin America, Alaska Airlines gains access to that carrier’s hubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Additionally, Alaska Airlines has been building up its own presence across California, furthering growth in existing bases like Los Angeles and San Diego while bulking up its schedules at smaller stations like Burbank and Orange County.
For now, Alaska Airlines and Virgin America will continue to operate under their own brands. Alaska Air CEO Brad Tilden has previously said the company is considering whether to continue that set-up or whether to fold the airlines into a single brand. It’s not clear when a decision might be reached.
For now, though, post-merger Alaska appears intent on capitalizing its new position as a West Coast juggernaut.
The company is using assets from each carrier to fuel its Bay Area growth that was detailed in Thursday’s announcement.
Of the 10 San Francisco routes, seven would be operated with Virgin America’s Airbus A320 aircraft while two would be with Embraer E175 jets operated by Alaska Airlines’ regional affiliates. The schedule for the tenth route – to Mexico City – has not been revealed, though Alaska Airlines indicated in a federal filing that it intends to use its own Boeing 737 jets.
From San Jose, all three of the new routes would be operated by Alaska Airlines affiliates on Embraer E170 jets.
Alaska Airlines is not discontinuing service elsewhere to launch the new routes. Instead, the carrier's fleet options will expand with new Airbus jets scheduled to arrive this year to Virgin America and Embraer E175s scheduled to arrive this year at Alaska Air regional affiliates, Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan says to Today in the Sky.
Once Alaska Airlines' 13 new routes begin, the company says it and Virgin America will fly from non-stop from San Francisco to 35 destinations. From San Jose, Alaska Airlines (along with Virgin America) will fly non-stop to 19 destinations, the most of any airline at that airport, according to Egan.
"The 10 new San Francisco routes and three new San Jose routes offer something for both the leisure and business traveler, including exciting destinations like New Orleans, Baltimore, Austin and Kona, Hawaii," Andrew Harrison, Alaska Airlines’ chief commercial officer, says in a statement.
"Our strategy is to use the same philosophy that's worked well for us in our Pacific Northwest hubs, which is to offer convenient, nonstop flights to the places guests fly to most,” Harrison adds, before making reference to the company’s highly regarded independent network of frequent-flier partners. “And if your itinerary requires travel overseas, our 10 global airline partners offer 137 international departures a week from the Bay Area."