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
United Express CRJ-700 on the tarmac at Seattle
This flight was something special for me. My first CRJ-700 flight ever and my first United Express flight in quite some time. As I just discussed recently, even though my plane might have “United” on the side, the flight is actually operated by SkyWest under the “United Express” brand.
My flight left early…7am. That meant getting up before I think people should be awake and heading to the airport. At least it was a beautiful morning and I was able to capture a few shots of my CRJ-700 on the tarmac with the moon behind it. One of the gate agents was so taken with the moon she made an unusual announcement letting passengers know they should check out the moon and many passengers flocked to the window. It was kind of cool to see that level of interaction.
United recently started being more aggressive selling upgrades to customers. I didn’t get around to checking in at home, so I did so at the airport. I was asked if I wanted to pay an extra $29 for Economy Plus, which gives you a few inches of extra leg room, you sit at the front of the plane and you get to board earlier. I didn’t feel the need to pony up the $29.00 extra for the 2.5hr flight. Since the flight was overbooked, I had to get my seat assignment at the gate. Lucky for me I got seat 6D, which was Economy Plus and I didn’t have to pay. Due to the overbooking, United was offering $400 travel vouchers which went fast. Everyone who wanted to fly was able to fly.
LA was pretty smog free on this flight...nice!
Before boarding a gate agent came on the intercom and apologized they had no jetway for the flight and we would have to board on the tarmac. Ha! No one should ever have to apologize for boarding on the tarmac. Okay, maybe the average passenger might not like going down the stairs or dealing with bad weather (United does provide umbrellas), but to me it is always worth it. Being down with the plane and boarding on the tarmac is always a welcomed experience.
The take off on the CRJ-700 was amazingly smooth. There wasn’t the big jolt you get with most other airliners. Many pilots I have talked to, see the CRJ-700 as a hotrod. Improved wings and engines over the CRJ-200 make the CRJ-700 a nimble and quick aircraft. It is able to take off quickly, while cruising at Mach 0.78.
Going to the rear of the aircraft was an interesting adventure. Unfortunately when I got up, the sign said no one was in the lavatory, but by the time I got there someone snuck in. Unlike larger aircraft there is no where to stand in the back of the CRJ-700. There is only the last row of seats and then, BAM the bathroom. So, when waiting you are standing in the aisle right next to seats with either your butt, crotch or thigh in their face. Akward for me and has to be annoying for the people in the back. When the passenger came out of the restroom, it was difficult to let them pass me without bumping into the passengers in the back row.
I love boarding on the tarmac!
The rear of the plane is also quite a bit louder. With the combination of the increased sound, not being able to recline your seats and people standing/walking past you to use the restroom, I suggest avoiding sitting in the back if you can. It would surely be worth the $29 to get Economy Plus versus having to sit in the back row.
The flight down to LAX was beautiful and clear, making the scenery a real treat. I only wish it was easier to see out my window in seat 6D. The CRJ-700 has windows pretty spaced out, as you find more with regional jets versus larger airliners. Some seats end up perfectly aligned and others, like 6D, end up in an odd position. On my flight back home I got seat 10D, which is not Economy Plus, but my window was perfect. Even at 6’1″, I would rather have a lined up window than extra leg room, but I know most passengers probably don’t feel the same way.
Even with the hindered view, having the extra leg room on the flight to LAX was nice. On both flights I worked on my laptop (actually writing up this blog) and it was much easier with the extra room (I have a gut that gets in my way, as well). Even with the person in front of me in Economy Plus reclined, I had no problems with my laptop being fully open, but it wasn’t the same in standard seating.
From my own personal experiences and reading those of others, I often have a lower expectation level for regional airlines. I was quite happy with the service, friendliness and professionalism from all four SkyWest flight attendants working the United Express flights.
Even though the plane might be a bit smaller and have a few draw backs (ie don’t sit in the back and go to the restroom before flying), the positives outweigh the negatives. Running smaller aircraft, like the CRJ-700, allows airlines to provide more daily flights and in more cases at a cheaper fare. Getting on and off the plane is much quicker than a larger Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 and if you are an airline nerd (which you might be reading this), you have a greater chance to board on the tarmac.