You’re sitting by the gate at the airport, watching the clock tick closer to your flight’s boarding time. Suddenly, there’s a *ding* overhead as the PA system comes on. Your stress levels rise. You know what’s coming. “Sorry folks, but departure has been delayed by an hour due to [insert any one of a million reasons / excuses here].”
In the airline world, on-time performance is hard. Airplanes are complex, ground operations are a logistical nightmare, and weather can wreak havoc on even the best-managed carriers. Given all those factors, it’s sometimes surprising how many flights still do leave on time. Most airlines rise and fall in the Department of Transportation’s on-time performance rankings. But over the past fifteen years, one U.S. carrier has kept an iron grip on the top position: Hawaiian Airlines.
We just wrote about our flight from Oakland to Maui on one of the airline’s new Airbus A321neos. After landing, we sat down with Hawaiian’s Head of Neighbor Island Operations Pat Rosa, who discussed what goes into Hawaiian’s on-time performance. Sure, Hawaii’s lack of snowstorms helps (though the islands still deal with their share of bad weather). But there’s plenty more ingredients that go into Hawaiian’s secret sauce for punctuality. Pat also talked about the unique culture within the islands’ home airline, his love for the new A321neo fleet, and his excitement for the airline’s Boeing 787 order.
If you love behind-the-scenes looks at airlines you definitely don’t want to miss this one, so read on!
Horizon and Allegiant sit on the tarmac at BLI. Photo from the Port of Bellingham.
It is always fun when two airlines are able to duke it out at a smaller airport. Alaska Airlines and Allegiant have both been flying out of Bellingham International Airport (BLI) [located just south of the US/Canada border and about an hour and a half north of Seattle, WA] and the competition is about to get… well… more interesting.
BLI has been growing leaps and bounds over the past few years. From being a small regional airline to one that is handling more and more flights. In 2004, the airport saw almost 80,000 passengers and in 2011 that number rose to over 500,000.
Bellingham’s airport is pulling passengers from northern Washington and about 62% of their passengers are from Canada. It seems that both Allegiant and Alaska feel there is more demand, flying passengers to Hawaii.
Last week, Alaska put out a press release, announcing that they would start seasonal service between Bellingham and Maui (OGG) starting in November. This is interesting, since Allegiant previously announced starting non-stop service from BLI to OGG in November as well.
Although both airlines might not be too happy with the added competition, the airport likes providing more options to their passengers.
“The Port is very excited about the new destinations being offered by Alaska Air (Maui), Horizon Air (Portland, OR), Frontier Airlines (Denver, CO) and Allegiant Air (Honolulu and Maui),” Daniel J. Zenk, Director of Aviation at Bellingham International Airport explained to AirlineReporter.com. “Each new destination offers more flexibility and convenience at a low cost to our customers. The Port of Bellingham is proud of our partnership with the airlines and their ability to provide this service.”
Neither airline is willing to call out the other by name, but it is obvious that Alaska knows who they will be competing with. From their press release:
Alaska Airlines’ unique service offers many benefits for customers including:
- Free carry-on bags
- Free advance seat selection
- First class seating
- Complimentary inflight water, soft drinks, coffee and tea
BLI recently opened a new terminal to help handle the increase of service. Photo from the Port of Bellingham.
See, Allegiant charges for carry-on bags, advance seat selection and drinks — they also only offer economy class seating. Even though Allegiant charges for these, the base-price for their flights will also most likely be cheaper and even after you add all the bells and whistles, they might still end up having a cost savings over Alaska.
Obviously, there is much more to choosing an airline than just cost and it will be interesting if cost or service will win out. Heck, there might be enough demand for both to succeed.
Allegiant is used to taking on other airlines and things do not seem any different in Bellingham. “The Allegiant business model is based on low-cost and value that stimulates new demand. This approach has led to 37 consecutive profitable quarters and will continue to help us grow,” Jessica Wheeler, Allegiant’s Public Relations Manager explained via email. “Our service in Bellingham has been very successful, and we are confident that all of our routes out of Bellingham will continue to attract new leisure travelers to our destinations.”
Alaska Airlines will start flying from Bellingham to Maui on November 8th using a Boeing 737-800, leaving at 3:00pm on Mon, Tue, Thu and Saturday. The return flight will be leaving at 11:00am from Maui on Tue, Wed, Fri and Sun. The airline will run the service through to winter until April 14th.
Allegiant will start flying from BLI to OGG on November 14th using a Boeing 757-200. At this point, the airline has not announced an official schedule.