Browsing Tag: Q400

Alaska Airlines Bombardier CRJ-700 (N215AG) operated by Skywest seen at SEA.

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

The Alaska Airlines livery on a Bombardier Q400 (N441QX) seen in Portland this week.

The Alaska Airlines livery on a Bombardier Q400 (N441QX) seen in Portland this week.Click for larger.

It is one thing to see a computer generated drawing of a new (well I guess kind of older) livery on a brand new plane versus seeing it in the flesh. Russell Hill, a photographer based in Portland, was lucky enough to catch the first Bombardier Q400 with the new Alaska Airlines livery. Although the plane was spotted in Portland, it was painted by Associated Painters in Spokane, WA.

Not too long ago, Alaska Air Group announced that the Horizon livery would be replaced by the Alaska livery on the Horizon Air Q400’s. However, the Horizon brand of service (aka free beer and wine on the plane) will stay. This is only the third aircraft type (Boeing 737 and MD-80 being the others) to see this Alaska Airlines livery.

Other than the “Horizon” looking a bit odd, I really like this livery on the Q400. I am wiling to bet we will see the “Horizon” after the “Alaska” leave after people become more aware of the change (update: I have been told there is no plan to get rid of the “Horizon” next to the “Alaska”). It is sad to see the old Horizon livery being retired, but at least it is being replaced by Alaska and not some other outside company. The plane is not assigned to any one route and you should start to see it throughout the Horizon route system.

Thanks to Russell for getting this photo and be sure to check out his second photo of the Q400 as well. You can also catch more photos on Horizon Air’s Facebook page.

A Frontier Q400 at Aspen. Check the Delta and United planes in the background.

A Frontier Q400 at Aspen. Check the Delta and United planes in the background.

Remember that one time, when I told you that Frontier and Delta would pull out of Aspen, leaving only United Airlines? Yea, now that is only partly true. Delta is still out of there, but Frontier will be sticking around for at least a while.

The same day that Frontier announced it would stick around at least through the winter, United announced it would add additional service.

Frontier was planning to be rid of their fleet of Q400’s that fly into Aspen, but due to leasing issues, three aircraft will remain available to fly for Frontier.

Who is this good for? Well surely the employees for Frontier who were told they were out of a job starting September 30th and now have work until April. It also is good for passengers, since the competition will surely keep fares lower. Probably United is the only one who comes out of this in a worse position. They assumed that they would become the only airline in town and started to increase flight accordingly.

Source: Aspen Times Image: frontierflickr
Me about to board the Q400 in Seattle. I should have waved, presidential-style.

Me about to board the Q400 in Seattle. I should have waved, presidential-style.

I have flown the route from Seattle to Reno many times in my life. From Reno Air back in the day, to Southwest, to America West to Alaska Airlines. The flight is easy, only about 1.5hrs, enough time to take off, get a drink and snacks and start the descent. In April 2008 Horizon Air took over the route for Alaska and since then, they have been the cheapest to fly. I actually prefer the flight on Horizon’s Q400’s versus Alaska’s Boeing 737 (or MD-80’s back in the day).

The main reason is, I love flying in smaller planes. It really lets the passenger connect with the flying experience. I think a lot of people do not like flying on smaller planes just for this reason. Unlike the larger planes, you get to board on the tarmac, which allows you to see the entire plane, not just a few inches around the door when you board in a jetway. The inside of the Q400 is set up in a 2-2 layout, so you always get a window or aisle. Of course I always go for the window, but I am happy to know if I don’t get one, I won’t be stuck in the middle.

Mount Rainier, just outside of Seattle, was one of many mountains you can see on the Seattle to Reno flight.

Mount Rainier, just outside of Seattle, was one of many mountains you can see on the Seattle to Reno flight.

On this trip I was in a group of four people, which allowed me to get a few photos of me with the plane and even better photos from both sides of the plane while flying. The flight from Seattle to Reno is beautiful. From Mount Rainier to Crater Lake, if it isn’t cloudy, you are in for a real treat. The Q400’s fly quite a bit lower at about 25,000 feet versus 30,000 to 40,000 with larger aircraft and their wings are high, which means everyone has an awesome view.

We all checked in the day before online and only had carry-ons, so we didn’t have to wait in any Horizon lines, just put up with the security ones. Horizon has a semi-hybrid option between carry-on and checking your bags, called Ala Cart. Since the overhead bins are smaller than you would find on larger aircraft, not all carry-ons can fit in them. If yours cannot fit or you don’t want to lug it on the plane you can put your carry-on on a cart while boarding. They will put it on another cart when you arrive at your destination. It’s way quicker than having to wait in baggage claim not to mention, the Ala Cart option is free. If you do need to check your bag, it will cost you $20 per bag, up to 3 bags. Like their sister carrier, Alaska Airlines, Horizon also provides the 20 minute checked baggage guarantee.

Beautiful downtown Reno, just about to land.

Beautiful downtown Reno, just about to land.

Talking about Alaska Airlines, Horizon’s relationship with them is quite unique. Some people think of Horizon as Alaska’s regional carrier, but they are set up very differently. Both airlines have a parent company, Alaska Air Group which owns and manages both airlines.  Most regionals fly for a larger airlines for fees and Horizon will sometimes fly for Alaska, but they mostly fly under their own brand. Horizon has their own marketing department, their own ads and unique brand of service. You will see the two airlines share a website together, but both logos are prominently displayed.

One thing that does make Horizon unique is offering free, regional wines and micro-brews, ah yea…can’t miss out on this. Our flight left at 7:40am, but that didn’t stop us from trying out some of that free local wine and beer. I mean, come-on it was the blog right?! Horizon is also offering free snack-packs on their Seattle to Portland flight, but I have yet been able to experience that first hand.

Passengers were able to de-board from the front and back of the Q400, making it super quick. Employees are getting the Ala Cart bags out.

Passengers were able to de-board from the front and back of the Q400, making it super quick. Employees are getting the Ala Cart bags out.

A passenger in our group (we shall call her “Rita”) was a little apprehensive about flying on a smaller aircraft. I know many others out there have that same fear. However, I quickly pointed out that Horizon Air is extremely safe and has never had a fatality since they started flying in 1981 and haven’t had any sort of incident since 1990. That made Rita feel much more comfortable and after the flight she very much loved her Horizon experience (maybe the glass of wine she had at 8am helped too).

The Horizon Q400’s might be a bit slower than jet airliners, but they are much more cost effective and friendly for the environment. Horizon has green stickers on each of their planes touting how green they are and even painted one of their Q400’s entirely green (can you see “Shrek” as they call it here or here?)

I definitely get excited to fly on Horizon and flying on the Q400’s and hope that some of you can feel a bit more at ease flying in smaller planes in the future.

Check out my (ok our, thanks Ben, Rita and Amy) additional pictures of the trip.

UPDATE: I have been informed there are two green Q400’s, nicknamed “Shrek” and “Fiona.”