Alaska Airlines Bombardier Q400 on proving flight in Juneau, Alaska – Photo: AirlineReporter.com
Alaska Airlines (AS), through their wholly-owned subsidiary Horizon Air, recently announced that they would deploy some of their Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 aircraft to the State of Alaska. While Dash-8’s have long been a fixture in Alaska Airlines’ pacific northwest network via Horizon (I was flying them within Washington as a child), this marks their first major deployment up north.
Why would AS begin flying Q400s in Alaska? For the same reasons other carriers have moved towards regional jets and turbo props – operating costs, frequency, and flexibility. On the operating cost side, Q400s are extremely efficient, particularly compared to the Boeing 737-400s that are a mainstay of the AS fleet in Alaska. Bombardier estimates savings in examples like this to approach 40%. From a frequency and flexibility standpoint, more flights on a smaller plane can meet passenger demands, maximizing load factor while increasing service frequency, to the benefit of passengers.
Some of the world’s largest planes take off and land at Paine Field every day. Will a few MD-80s really be that big of a deal? Photo by AirlineReporter.com.
It is time for Paine Field (PAE) to offer commercial flights and we all might be one step closer to getting there. Paine Field, where Boeing builds its Boeing 767, 777 and 787, is located in Everett, WA about 30 miles north of Seattle. Many people think that the airport is owned by Boeing, but it is actually owned by Snohomish County and for years there has been debate about starting commercial operations at the airport.
Even though I live in the flight path for Paine Field and increased flights would likely decrease the value of my home, I am a strong supporter for adding commercial flight operations. It is the best for the community as a whole, there is a demand and there will be little negative impact on the community.
BACKGROUND PAINE FIELD STORIES:
* Is Seattle Ready for a Second Airport?
* Opinion: Commercial Flights Should Commence at Paine Field
This week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concluded that up to 23 flights per day would have almost no impact on the environment, noise or traffic around the airport. People still have until October 17th to make their opinions known and the FAA is expected to make their final decision on commercial flights by the end of the year.
After the FAA’s announcement Alaska Airlines stated that they are no longer interested in flying out of Paine Field. Alaska told The Everett Herald that Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) has improved their offering quite a bit with a third runway, light rail and a rental car area. “Just the significant investments made at Sea-Tac the last couple of years lead us to feel strongly that Sea-Tac is the best airport to serve our region,” Bobbie Egan explained to the Everett Herald. However, Alaska also admits that if other airlines start offering flights out of PAE, they might re-visit the issue in the future.
Allegiant, who does not operate any flights out of SEA, is still interested in starting operations at Paine Field. Even with the final announcement expected soon, Allegiant is not sure when it might start flights. “We don’t have an announcement timeline – or even a definitive that we will announce – but we are certainly interested,” Allegiant spokesperson told AirlineReporter.com. “Many other factors come into play when making service decisions. That being said, we think the FAA report confirms what we’ve said all along – flights from Paine field would be a great benefit to the community and the airport.”
Will Paine Field be seeing the Allegiant livery soon? I sure hope so. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren.
Not everyone is a fan of Paine Field starting commercial operations. The Everett Herald recently posted a commentary from Vicki Derks who feels that increased traffic at PAE might cause Boeing to move more of their operations out of town.
Derks echos the fear that many others have talked about: the fact that once commercial air traffic starts at an airport, there is no limiting how quickly flights can grow. Maybe the surrounding area will turn into a cesspool or the noise will drive people out of the area. I hardly doubt that will ever be the case. For one, is there really that much demand in Everett for enough commercial flights to cause a detriment to the community? I do not think so.
About 40 miles south is the region’s largest airport SEA and then 75 miles north is Bellingham International Airport. There isn’t a huge population between the two airports who will be looking for a limited, domestic route offerings out of PAE.
To date, Boeing has had no comment on commercial flights starting in Everett.
It seems the writing is on the wall. I suspect that someday flights will commence at Paine Field and I am waiting for the day. I say bring it on!
The newest livery on Horizon's Q400 is one for the San Diego State University Aztecs. Image from John David Wicker.
Horizon Air, which operates Capacity Purchase Agreement flights for sister carrier Alaska Airlines, is the eighth largest regional airline and is based in Seattle, WA. Recently, their own Horizon livery disappeared and was replaced by Alaska’s Eskimo, but the airline still retained a nice collection of unique liveries.
On May 31st, Alaska showed off their newest livery: San Diego State University at San Diego International Airport (SAN). The unveiling of the new livery was timed to celebrate the start of Alaska Airlines new San Diego flights to Fresno, Monterey and Santa Rosa, Calif., which began on June 4 and 5.
“We’re proud to add San Diego State University’s bold colors to our fleet of university planes and especially pleased that this aircraft represents our first California school,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of marketing. “We hope the Aztec plane will bring smiles to our passengers and be a source of pride for SDSU students, alumni and faculty for years to come as we fly it throughout our regional route network.”
It took a crew of eight people working around the clock for seven days at Associated Painters, located in Spokane, WA to paint the SDSU livery. The painting required 32 gallons of white paint, 10 gallons of red paint and four gallons of black paint. In addition, about 2,000 sheets of sandpaper and 10,000 yards of masking tape were also used.
Check out the gallery below for additional special Horizon/Alaska Q400 liveries:
Alaska Airlines Bombardier CRJ-700 (N215AG) operated by Skywest seen at SEA.Photo by Keith Draycott.
Not too long ago, Seattle-based Horizon Air flew CRJ-700s for the Alaska Air Group. Then, Horizon announced they would get rid of the CRJ-700s and only fly a fleet of Bombardier Q400s). Shortly thereafter, Alaska announced they would absorbthe Horizon brand. Now, Alaska Airlines has contracted out with Skywest to fly Bombardier CRJ-700 regional jets on some of their west coast routes.
The Alaska Air Group felt there was still a need for a 70-person regional jet to serve some of their west coast destinations, resulting in Alaska Airlines contracting with Skywest to fly 22 daily CRJ-700 flights between Seattle/Portland and Burbank, Fresno, Long Beach, Ontario and Santa Barbara.
Interesting enough, Skywest is leasing the CRJ-700s from Horizon Air and flying them for Alaska under the new brand. The regional jets will sport the Alaska Airlines livery with a smaller “Skywest” on the fuselage. The interior will have blue leather seating, to match what you might find on an Alaska Air Boeing 737. However, the service will mirror what you would expect from flying on Horizon Air (yay free beer and wine).
“Alaska’s goal is to create a consistent customer experience on all of its regional-aircraft flights and provide a level of service — including beer and wine — that will compete against other regional airlines that offer a first class cabin,” Marianne Lindsey, Alaska Airlines Corporate Communications explained to Airline Reporter. “Coffee, napkins, cups, the inflight magazine, flight attendant uniforms and flight attendant announcements will match Alaska’s. Boarding passes and a decal next to the aircraft boarding door will indicate the flights are being operated for Alaska by SkyWest.”
Horizon hopes to have a single fleet of Q400’s by June 1st, matching Alaska’s single fleet of Boeing 737s. It becomes more economical for Horizon to lease the aircraft through Skywest since they have many more CRJs in their fleet, allowing economies of scale that Horizon or Alaska cannot match.
Horizon Air employees are trained to work with the CRJ-700, but since they will now be operated by Skywest, there will be some operational changes that have required employees to go through some re-training. “More than 2,200 employees at Alaska, Horizon, SkyWest and our partner vendors have been trained,” Lindsey explained. “More than 40 computer systems have been integrated and more than 400 processes have been confirmed–all to ensure safety and compliance, as well as a seamless product for our customers.”
Alaska didn’t indicate that it immediate plans for additional routes to be flown by the CRJ-700s. “We’re continually evaluating demand in all Alaska markets and will ensure the aircraft type and frequency (or capacity) continue to match demand throughout the Alaska system,” Lindsey confirmed.
I would imagine there could be some hiccups with so many changes happening at one time for the new Alaska, old Horizon and the addition of Skywest. However, Alaska has a good track record of keeping people informed and trying to make the changes unnoticeable to their customer. Although many of us airline geeks will notice a change of aircraft type and livery, most people just want to get from point A to B as safe and cheaply as possible.
Being a Seattle native, I have mixed feelings seeing the Horizon brand slowly going away. Alaska needs to be able to compete and keep themselves a strong independent airline. They have weathered many economic downturns without having to sell or merge. It is a love/hate relationship and it helps that Alaska Air’s livery looks so darn good on the Bombardier Q400 and CRJ-700.
Things of interest:
* Schedule of the Skywest CRJ-700s
* Photo of CRJ-700 in Horizon livery (N601QX which is now N215AG)
* An ex-Horizon CRJ-700 caught in Atlanta (N604QX)
* Photo of Alaska livery on CRJ-700 in flight (N215AG)
* Another photos of CRJ in AS livery on the ground (N215AG)
Image by Keith Draycott via Flickr