The fine media folks over at Alaska Airlines had quite the day yesterday. They were very busy announcing all sorts of exciting things. I am sure some of this stuff you have already heard, but maybe some you haven’t. Here are some of the announcements:
HORIZON LOSES OWN BRAND, GAINS ALASKA’S:
As an Alaska Airlines/Horizon fan and one that loves liveries, this is huge news. On January 1, 2011, Horizon Air stopped flying under its own brand and for most people, this was not an obvious change. Instead of flying their own routes and doing their own marketing of their routes, they started flying 100% via capacity purchase agreement under Alaska Airlines. At the time, questions started to surface on what Horizon’s future would be. Horizon could have been sold off, started to fly for other carriers or be absorbed completely under the Alaska brand. Yesterday, Alaska announced they will be re-branding Horizon with the Alaska brand. This means the sun on the tail will be replaced with the familiar Eskimo. Over time, all of Horizon’s fleet will be repainted in Alaska colors with some Horizon lettering.
If you love those Horizon Q400’s in university livery (go Dawgs!), do not worry, Horizon stated via their Twitter account, they are here to stay. Just because the outer brand will be changing, doesn’t mean the Horizon brand of service will be changing. You will still get the Ala Cart baggage service, flight crew uniforms and of course that free beer and wine you can get with every flight.
I have always enjoyed the Horizon Air livery on the Q400’s, but I have to say, Alaska’s livery on the aircraft looks slick. Normally a change like this will look odd and takes some time to get used to (ie United’s new livery), but this just seems natural. The “Horizon” after the Alaska name looks odd, but my guess is the “Horizon” will be removed as passengers get used to the new, combined brand.
This makes sense. A lot of sense. Horizon and Alaska have been operating under the Alaska Air Group since Horizon was purchased in 1986, but they have remained pretty separate. There has been a lot of overlap between the companies, where they did things separately. Not only will this move save money in advertising one brand, instead of two, but it also allows them to merge offices and jobs. This can secure both the futures of Alaska and Horizon Air and should make it easier for the airline to swap out aircraft between the mainline Boeing 737’s and Horion’s Q400’s when needed and possible.
This is a booming time for the airline business. Many of the airlines are seeing profits they haven’t seen in years — or ever. Alaska is one of those that is very much enjoying the boom. They reported their 4th quarter 2010 net income as $47.4 million. That is not bad, especially seeing how they only made $4.4 million during the fourth quarter 2009. The entire Alaska Air Group has $1.2 billion in unrestricted cash and marketable securities at December 31, 2010. Adjusted debt-to-total capital ratio of 67% — lowest leverage since 1999.
Anytime airlines make a profit, some people seem to want to punish them. Asking for lower fares and removal of fees. Please. They are a business and need to save up money and reinvest money for future growth. I think we should all be happy for the airlines and especially Alaska for making such impressive profits.
ADDITIONAL BOEING 737 ORDERS:
Alaska announced they have ordered an additional 13 Boeing 737-900ER’s, which will will have the new Sky Interior. Alaska hopes to start taking delivery in 2012 and to be completed by 2014. Alaska posted a photo of the proposed new Sky Interior on their new 737’s via Twitter yesterday, which is small, but at least gives you an idea of what it will look like. Boeing released a computer generated photo of what the Alaska Air Boeing 737-900ER will look like (spoiler: no big surprises, but still cool photo). Dan Webb via his blog, Things in the Sky, took a closer look at what this order means for Alaska so no point in repeating his findings.
OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS OF INTEREST:
* Alaska Airlines holds the No. 1 spot in U.S. Department of Transportation on-time performance among the 10 largest U.S. airlines for the last twelve months.
* Alaska Airlines reaches a tentative agreement with its IAM-represented employees – including customer service agents, reservations agents, and certain clerical staff.
* Horizon Air’s mechanics and pilots ratify long-term labor contracts.
* Alaska will be retiring all the CRJ-700’s in the Horizon fleet by the end of 2011. Although I love the Q400’s, it would have been nice to see a CRJ in Alaska livery — oh well.
Although some will be sad to see the Horizon brand will vanish over the horizon (sorry, couldn’t help myself), it does mean that the Horizon you have gotten to know and love will be going anywhere. All these changes is great news for Alaska and in turn for many of those that fly in and out of Seattle and the western United States. Alaska has done an amazing job of growing in to new markets an providing a high level of service for their customers. I see that these changes will only help Alaska continue to succeed and grow.