Alaska Airlines Adds E175s To SkyWest Fleet

Posts from me are going to be a bit lighter over the next week as I continue my dad’s round the world surprise birthday tripAs you may (or may not) know, I also have a points consulting service, whereby we help people redeem their airline miles. I have several colleagues working with me, and they’re some of the most knowledgeable and passionate people I know in this hobby. They’ve offered to pitch in and write a few posts to give me a bit more time off while I’m traveling, so hopefully you’ll enjoy the additional unique perspectives. This post is from my friend Alex, who is even more of an airline nut than I am.  — Ben


Growing up in Seattle, I remember the days when Alaska Airlines barely flew outside of the west coast. In the early 2000s, they started a few transcontinental routes like Washington National with the addition of newer 737s, but those were exceptions to the network, rather than the norm. Alaska didn’t even start flying to Hawaii until 2007, but now it seems to comprise a majority of their routes.

Over recent years, Alaska has been filling holes in their network, like with the addition of Detroit, New Orleans, and Tampa. Alaska even added a Salt Lake City “focus hub” earlier this year. Exciting, right? 😉

Alaska Airlines 737 SeaTac Airport
Alaska 737 in Seattle 

Bye Felicia Horizon

Until 2011, Alaska’s in-house regional carrier, Horizon, operated under its own brand.

Horizon’s brand disappeared in favor of Alaska’s as part of a restructuring to bring their business model in line with the rest of the industry. Now, Alaska does all the “marketing” and pays Horizon to do all the “operating.”

This change included streamlining the Horizon fleet to just Bombardier Q400 turboprops (equivalent to a flying party bus with free beer and wine), and it allowed other regional airlines to fly under the Alaska banner, like SkyWest.

Alaska
Boarding a Horizon Q400 in Seattle

SkyWest currently operates 70-seat CRJ-700s for Alaska, which I believe were the planes that Horizon actually sold to SkyWest. These operate on flights like Seattle to Long Beach or Omaha, which are too long for a Q400. Additionally, I think most of Alaska’s frequent flyers wish these CRJs had a first class cabin. All the other U.S. mainline carriers offer a first class cabin on their larger regional jets, so Alaska is lagging behind here (although, I’m sure if there were a market, they’d install it).

Expanded partnership with SkyWest

This brings me to yesterday’s announcement from Alaska – they announced new service and an expanded partnership with SkyWest.

SkyWest is purchasing seven Embraer E175 jets to fly for Alaska, which will feature 76 seats – 12 in first class and 64 in coach. 

If that’s not a healthy ratio of first class to economy seats for upgrades, then I don’t know what is.

Over 15% of the plane is first class seating. Keep in mind, the ratio of first to economy is only 8.8% on Alaska’s 737-900ERs. Definitely good news for Alaska elites looking to upgrade, although I’m pretty sure the only reason there are so many first class seats is because of Alaska’s pilot contract limiting the number of seats on express aircraft.

alaska-airlines-first-class-seats
Alaska 737-900ER first class cabin

In addition to first class seating which includes power ports at every first class seat, the aircraft will feature ovens for hot meals (buy-on-board included), Wi-Fi, streaming entertainment, and Horizon’s legacy free beer and wine policy.

I find Embraer E-Jet aircraft to be extremely comfortable, even in back. Economy seats are wider than on most aircraft (18.5 inches wide, compared to 17 inches of width on a 737), there are no middle seats, and the ceilings are tall enough for me to stand up in, unlike in a CRJ. I might actually prefer these to 737s.

The first routes are scheduled to be the following:

Start date

City pair

Departs

Arrives

Frequency

July 1

Seattle-Milwaukee

9:35 a.m.

3:10 p.m.

Daily

July 1

Milwaukee-Seattle

3:50 p.m.

5:55 p.m.

Daily

July 1

Seattle-Oklahoma City

10:30 a.m.

4 p.m.

Daily

July 1

Oklahoma City-Seattle

4:40 p.m.

6:30 p.m.

Daily

July 1

Portland-St. Louis

10:15 a.m.

3:55 p.m.

Daily

July 1

St. Louis-Portland

4:35 p.m.

6:45 p.m.

Daily

While it makes me sad this is more express flying under Alaska’s portfolio, these routes wouldn’t exist without this aircraft added to the Alaska Airlines fleet.

Bottom line

While these route additions to Alaska’s network aren’t too exciting, the introduction of a new aircraft definitely is. I’m interested to see if SkyWest acquires more E175s for Alaska, and where they might be deployed.

Seven initial airplanes is not a whole lot, but I imagine more will be added in the coming months/years. With the impending retirement of Alaska’s older 737-400 fleet that flies primarily within the state of Alaska, I wonder if these aircraft might be suitable for intra-state flying on thin routes. I know cargo is a big reason flights like Anchorage to Bethel (yes, that’s a place) exist on mainline 737s.

These SkyWest additions also strengthen Alaska’s hub in Seattle, which has come under attack by Delta over the past two years. Delta wants to triple their presence in Seattle, and they’ve even added flights to markets like Sitka and Ketchikan, operated by SkyWest. Honestly, the real winner in the Alaska-Delta battle is SkyWest, seeing as so much of Delta’s new domestic service from Seattle is operated by regional carriers.

At the end of the day, this is great news. Hopefully Alaska will introduce some lucrative promotions to fill seats, like the double elite qualifying mile promotion they offered on Seattle-Detroit.

Have you flown on an Embraer E-Jet (E170/175/190/195)? If so, what did you think? 

Comments

  1. I’m wondering what other Portland (most likely) or St. Louis route will get an E175 in order to rotate the aircraft onto the PDX – STL flight. Maybe an early morning SEA – PDX flight followed by an evening PDX – SEA flight upon returning from STL?

  2. I’m on an E175 at least a couple times a month in the form of Delta Shuttle between LAX-SFO. Granted, they’re a bit on old side, but with 14 daily flights each way (I think), my upgrades clear at the 5 day mark, and I get a cozy seat in the “A” column of first class. They’re small, quick to board, and relatively comfortable. The only problem with those is when the super leisure crowd try to bring their 27 inch “carryon” and get them in the overheads. They always seem so sure that it’s going to fit, and the look on their faces when they see the size of the bins is HIGH-LARIOUS.

  3. I love the Embraer E-jets because they’re so spacious compared to other planes, particularly in coach. Unfortunately, being a Brazilian product they are notoriously troublesome in cold climates (just ask Air Canada), so I doubt you’ll be seeing them in Alaska any time soon. Interestingly, Bombardier planes are said to be equally fussy in the tropics, so clearly there’s some hometown bias on the part of the designers.

  4. Its probably worth noting that the SEA-OKC and PDX-STL flights will be the only non-stop between those city pairs and they will only compete with Southwest on the SEA-MKE flights.

  5. No question the E-jets are much more comfortable, both up front and in back, than a 737. Only downside is that most of them don’t have ovens for the first class meal service, though it sounds like Alaska won’t have that problem.

  6. Fly them all the time between LGA and ORD on DL. Love them, especially compared to the CRJs. Roomy, reasonably quiet.

  7. My mother is an Air Canada employee in Edmonton, it does not make sense that AC is the largest E90 operator. The business class product is nice as it is a 2-1 configuration and coach is comfortable as well.

  8. Gary,

    I doubt the seating configuration on Alaska’s E jets has anything to do with scope because I believe Alaska is notable in that it’s pilot contract lacks a scope clause. I would not be surprised to see more OO E jets come online given Alaska’s current options and orders (and, unless I am mistaken, their lack of a scope clause.)

  9. Living in Tulsa, I was hoping that they would bring a flight here, but I’d rather drive 1.5 hrs to okc to fly non stop than waiting at the airport then flying to dfw for around double the time. I hope this flight does well thought.

  10. I’m with you on the E-170/175 being the most comfortable plane (at least in coach where I hang out). No middle seat makes it better than mainline, and the general roominess makes it better than CRJs (though I’ve never been on a CRJ-9). E-170/175 is the only plane type I will intentionally look for when booking flights.

    Apparently Alaska is stalking me because they started service to Omaha right before I moved to Milwaukee for law school–and now they’re expanding to Milwaukee! 😉

  11. Having lived in the Pac NW for eight years, I came to love Alaska Airlines and Mileage Plan. I live in Edmonton now, and I still use Alaska/Horizon the most due to my frequent trips to the Western US. But I have to say, the Horizon flights between SEA and YEG are really horrid. I don’t know much about airplanes, but this route is consistently one of the most uncomfortable flights I fly each year. The flights are almost always full or close to it, and with all the money in Alberta, I really can’t believe that there isn’t a market for a first class product. I’m happy to see Horizon contemplating other options with a more comfortable product. I really hope they upgrade the Alberta routes soon, too.

  12. To answer Kevin from last Nov.
    Pdx will also see the E 175 on
    Slc-Pdx-Stl-Pdx-Slc
    Sea will have arrivals from Ont & Slc also

  13. With the Horizon planes leases coming to an end soon as well ( I’m sure they are running out of duct tape) and no apparent plans for growth And Alaska putting their money into growing their partnership with Skywest, do you see Horizon fading into the sunset? Cheaper to outsource at this time?

  14. I think to keep Alaska in a competitive market it would make sense to have Horizon fly the new Aircraft.Aren’tyouSister Companies? I feel Horizon has a more professional staff.I would rather spend my money at Horizon and Alaska.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *