Alaska Airlines’ Big Newark Expansion

Earlier in the year it was announced that slot restrictions at Newark Airport would be eased starting this fall, making it easier for more airlines to launch flights to Newark Airport. Previously Newark Airport was slot restricted due to the amount of congestion, but they managed to improve their stats to the point that they could accommodate more capacity.

It looks like Alaska Airlines will be taking full advantage of these changes at Newark, and has announced their intentions to add four additional daily flights between the West Coast and Newark. The new flights will be out of Portland, San Diego, and San Jose, as well as an additional daily frequency out of Seattle. Here are the details of the new flights:

Alaska-Newark-Service

Per the Alaska Airlines press release:

Alaska Airlines announced today a significant expansion to the New York City area with multiple new routes to Newark Liberty International Airport. The new service comes as the Federal Aviation Administration approved Alaska Airlines’ request to operate four additional daily flights to Newark. New service from Newark, New Jersey to Portland, Oregon and San Diego, California will start in November 2016, with new service to San Jose, California beginning in March 2017. A third daily departure from Seattle, Washington to Newark, New Jersey will be added in May 2017.

Alaska’s new Portland-Newark service continues the airline’s expansion of its Portland hub which includes other recently added destinations such as Minneapolis; Kansas City, Missouri; Orlando; Omaha, Nebraska; and Atlanta. The newly added Newark service will be the only daytime nonstop from Portland to the Garden State.

The new San Diego-Newark service is the third East Coast destination from the airline’s Southern California focus city, which will give San Diego travelers access to one of the largest business markets in the world.

The new San Jose-Newark service marks the first nonstop flight between the two cities and provides Silicon Valley customers a convenient new option for travel to the New York City area.

In the spring, the airline will also add a third flight between Seattle and Newark, complementing the two existing daily nonstop flights from the Emerald City.

Keep in mind that Alaska is taking over Virgin America to create the “premier West Coast airline, though they’re also obviously trying to compete in the transcon market.

Alaska-Virgin-America-Merger

Before the merger was announced, Alaska and JetBlue were in a bidding war for Virgin America, because both carriers wanted to keep Virgin America from one another.

JetBlue knew if they could take over Virgin America then they’d be dominant on both the East Coast and West Coast, and that’s something that scared Alaska, and is probably why they were willing to overpay for Virgin America. With that in mind, Alaska doesn’t just want to have an extensive network on the West Coast, but also between coasts.

Virgin America already has a good presence between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco, though now we’re seeing Alaska grow to other cities from the New York area (though they could only get flights into Newark for slot reasons).

Alaska-Rebrand

Bottom line

While Alaska’s focus city plans outside of Portland, Seattle, and Anchorage, have always been a bit confusing to me, I can definitely see the merit to these routes overall. They give Alaska more access to the NYC-area, and strengthen the combined network of Alaska and Virgin America.

Their operations will no doubt be a bit scattered, given that they’ll have transcontinental flights out of both Newark and Kennedy, and also given that most of their partner airlines fly out of Kennedy.

However, I guess Newark was better than nothing…

What do you make of Alaska’s Newark expansion?

Comments

  1. “JetBlue knew if they could take over Virgin America then they’d be dominant on both the East Coast and West Coast, and that’s something that scared Alaska, and is probably why they were willing to overpay for Virgin America.”

    Lot of speculation presented as fact in that sentence…

  2. @ Facts only — First of all, this is a blog, so if you’re only looking for facts rather than opinions and analysis, this might not be the place for you.

    That being said, I feel pretty comfortable in what I said, and I’m curious what you take issue with:
    — Are you disagreeing Alaska overpaid for Virgin America? Just look at Alaska’s stock price since the takeover announcement
    — JetBlue also bidding on Virgin America is a fact

  3. Do you think Alaska is ever going to come up with some sort of a premium product for transcons? Especially the NY-LA/SF markets. Seems like their product lags behind others.

  4. I’m still curious to see how the two airlines will eventually merge into one given the levels of service and comfort each presents. With Alaska broadening their route map with transcons, a market Virgin America clearly has (had?) a better handle on service-wise, it looks like we’ll start seeing the disappearance of the perceived upscale touches Virgin brought to the transcon table – not accounting for United’s p.s. and American’s A321T services.

    Don’t get me wrong; I love Alaska and think their F hard and soft products are perfectly fine for the short, 2- and 3-hour hops they’re great at, but Y on their planes is no better than the legacy carriers. Y on Virgin, however, is much better than both Alaska and the legacy carriers, and their F clearly outshines Alaska in all aspects. Point being, I’d much rather a Virgin America transcon flight than an Alaska, in any class of service. Makes me wonder if this the first nail in the coffin that will see Virgin disappear sooner than originally stated.

  5. As a very frequent visitor to San Jose, I really like that AS has a mini-focus city developing there. I’m a big fan of BOS-SAN and BOS-SEA, so a BOS-SJC (nerd bird 2) would really make my day. The only JetBlue flight to SJC is a redeye eastbound.

  6. Adam,

    I don’t think this says anything about Alaska’s plans for the Virgin transcons. I think there is a very good chance they keep the Virgin brand and planes and just link the networks. Since the Alaska/Virgin deal, there has been a lot of speculation on Alaska’s real motive, but I think we should just take them for their word – they want to create an airline with strong West Coast airline up and down the coast. Adding more Newark destinations serve that purpose, as does acquiring Virgin

  7. More flights and more destinations. The 3 legacy carriers need more competition. Whether from Alaska or foreign airlines.

  8. This is great for NJ residents who are more times than not, tied to United which holds 70% flights out of EWR. Any competition is good.

  9. @Anthony:

    Perhaps, but then we’ve got one airline competing against itself on routes (or near-enough routes) with two different products. If they keep the brands separate, I’m curious as to their plans of differentiation. Will they still market Virgin as the boutique, upscale airline while Alaska is more the workhorse airline, but price them different accordingly? If they did the opposite, it would seem…I don’t know…disingenuous to essentially codeshare Virgin and Alaska flights given the difference in product. If I buy a Virgin F ticket through the Virgin website but end up on an Alaska plane – either due to equipment swap or shared, future route – I’d be ticked off. I know that’s a very specific use case that may not even be feasible or realistic, but I think this definitely adds a twist to Alaska’s plans.

    As for taking them at their word, while I wasn’t a part or the huge outcry over the devaluation of EK – I’ve flown it enough to be “over” it (yes, I know, first world problems) – I refuse to assume any airline is doing anything truly open-kimono and/or in the best interests of passengers.

  10. QUOTE: The new San Jose-Newark service marks the first nonstop flight between the two cities and provides Silicon Valley customers a convenient new option for travel to the New York City area.

    No. No NO. Continental used to fly SJC-EWR. This new service would be the first nonstop for AS, but not the first SJC-EWR non-stop. It will be the first daytime SJC-NYC non-stop adding to B6’s SJC-JFK redeye. This is AS’ PR’s miswording, however, not Lucky’s.

  11. Finally a red eye on AS! If somehow Cathay or JAL could be convinced to start service from SEA, I could dump United….

  12. A bit of speculation. But post deal close, it is plausible that Alaska could use Virgin’s fleet and in flight service exclusively on transcon flights and remove it from the shorter routes where the amenities are not as necessary (i.e. SFO/LAX-LAS). That would somewhat even the service playing field….somewhat. They could use the in coming E175 to feed the transcon and augment O&D traffic. Just my 2 cents.

  13. You said “Newark was better than nothing.” Are you kidding? I guess you’ve never flown out of Newark. Nothing would be an improvement.

    BTW, you didn’t say what metal AS is going to use. Please don’t tell me they are going to fly those transcons with 737s.

  14. Yeah Newark is an ugly airport but I’d rather deal with ugly Newark and get to Manhattan in 30 min vs the hour or more it takes to get to JFK. Plus JFK’s terminals are so long it takes 20 min just to walk to your bags.

  15. The acquisition – should it ultimately win approval – also would cement Alaska Airlines as a West Coast juggernaut, giving it a supersized presence on routes along the Pacific Coast.

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