Virgin Alaska’s Newark Growth Continues

Last week I wrote about Alaska Airlines’ big expansion out of Newark, where over the next several months they’ll be adding four additional daily transcontinental flights out of Newark, to Portland, San Diego, San Jose, and Seattle.

This followed the announcement earlier this year 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.

That means right now Newark Airport is the only NYC area airport that a West Coast airline can easily expand to.

While I find Alaska’s San Diego and San Jose focus cities to be a bit scattered, the strategy behind what they’re doing makes sense. Alaska is taking over Virgin America to create the “premier West Coast airline,” and as part of that they’re going to want to compete more aggressively on transcon flights with JetBlue, especially now that JetBlue is trying to expand out west more.

Alaska-Virgin-America-Merger

It looks like the combined Alaska and Virgin America transcontinental growth out of Newark isn’t just limited to Alaska, but Virgin America is joining in now as well.

Virgin America has announced that they’ll launch an additional daily flight from Newark to both Los Angeles and San Francisco as of November 18, 2016. Once added, Virgin America will have a total of ten daily flights between Los Angeles and New York, and a total of nine daily flights between San Francisco and New York (split between Newark and Kennedy).

Virgin-America

The additional frequencies, which complement the existing ones, will operate with the following schedule:

Newark to Los Angeles departing 4:05PM arriving 7:20PM
Los Angeles to Newark departing 7:00AM arriving 3:10PM

Newark to San Francisco departing 7:00PM arriving 10:25PM
San Francisco to Newark departing 9:40AM arriving 6:00PM

The “combined” Alaska Airlines will have quite a transcon route network out of Newark with these changes (and the below doesn’t even reflect the number of frequencies they have to Los Angeles and San Francisco).

Virgin-Newark

Bottom line

The Newark expansion from Alaska and Virgin America seems a bit scattered and non-ideal, but at the same time additional frequency opportunities out of the NYC area for airlines are limited, so they’re making the best of what they can get.

It’ll be very interesting to see what kind of an onboard product the combined Alaska and Virgin America adopts once they complete their merger. Alaska just has standard domestic first class seats (which isn’t really competitive in some transcon markets), while Virgin America has recliner seats (which are more comfortable than domestic first class, but nowadays not competitive between NY and LA/SF anymore).

Comments

  1. With the big gate pick-ups Alaska will get at SFO via the VX acquisition, I have no idea why they’d be adding any San Jose routes at all. That is a minor-league airport and is extremely inconvenient to anyone in the SF/Oakland part of the Bay Area — and no more convenient to most people on the peninsula. Yet another reason I’m not looking forward to the Alaska takeover — mom & pop airline, mom & pop airports.

  2. ^^^ Sorry, did not read carefully. I see that these are just additional VX flights on the SFO route. That said, I would hope and expect that Alaska would reduce or get rid of its SJC transcons, which seem unnecessary (and second-class) in light of the pick-ups it will get through the acquisition.

  3. As an AS Board Room member, I’m interested to hear about lounge access in SF after this deal closes. I travel between SEA and SFO many times per month on AS, and am loving the current CX lounge access. The old BR in SFO was about as bad as they come.

  4. @shza

    SJC runs often ring up higher due to the tech business traffic that flows through SJC. It really does make a meaningful difference in time if you’re starting from Mountain View or San Jose, to choose SJC over SFO, and most of those trips are not price sensitive.

    Whenever I cross-shop SFO and SJC, I consistently see SJC as pricier for ORD, SEA, BOS, NYC, etc.

  5. @shza — As someone who uses both SFO and SJC, I see the benefits of both, and I think you are way off base by implying it’s second-class or its location is inconvenient for most Bay Area residents. FYI, there is a substantial population in the South Bay (San Jose’s population is actually bigger than San Francisco’s), SJC is closer to Silicon Valley, and the airport itself not only has a nice, new terminal but also is way easier to get in and out of (e.g., walking the to rental car center instead of taking the airtrain).

    Oh, and when your flight is delayed by hours because “low ceilings” have shut down half the runways at SFO, I’ll be arriving on-time to my destination…

    Honestly, I wish there were more transcons out of SJC.

  6. Alaska needs to do something about it’s inflight catering in F. The first quarter Alaska rolled out the small plate idea as a trial, at first it had it’s issues, but smoothed out, then Alaska pulled it and went back to it’s old catering way. What is served in F on Alaska Flights is horrible, worse then AA. So Alaska went out over paid for XV and will do what with it? Turn it into AS with horrible FC seats and horrible FC Catering. Its sad that FC passengers get worse food then what can he had in Y on BOB and now AS charges F pax for BOB meals

  7. What Andrew said. SFO is my last choice of airport in the Bay no matter where I’m starting from. I’d rather ride the BART/Air Train to OAK then mess with SFO weather delays.

  8. A couple responses on SFO vs. SJC.

    1. People love to cite the statistic that SJ has more people than SF. It has a lower daytime population though, and is obviously much smaller than the whole SF metro area (though, granted, there is another airport in Oakland too). Certainly for anyone in SF, the East Bay, or Marin, SJC is not even on the radar. And if you’re farther up the peninsula (e.g. Redwood City, San Carlos, etc.), SFO is more convenient.

    2. All of that leaves out the incoming traffic of non Bay Area residents, who overwhelmingly are coming to visit SF. SJ is not a destination city for anyone. Convenient if your destination is Big Sur or something, but that’s obviously tiny compared to the SF tourist market.

    3. The SJC flights are more expensive because there are far fewer of them. There are far fewer of them because there is far less demand. SFO-SLC often costs considerably more than SFO-JFK too.

    So SJC will probably always be a second-tier airport (versus SFO), because it makes sense. I doubt it makes sense for Alaska to keep all of its SJC routes once it picks up VX’s SFO routes, but I guess we’ll see.

    Slightly OT: it seems a little crazy that we have as many international airports in the Bay Area as they have in the NYC metro, given how comparatively tiny we are. It just seems like there must be massive economic inefficiencies lurking there. Granted, JFK alone can probably handle more traffic than all three of our airports combined.

  9. I’ve got to weigh in. I live in north Menlo Park (one block from Redwood City border). Travel time is almost equal to SJC and SFO. OAK is not a lot further. I’ll take SJC ANY DAY over SFO or OAK. SFO has so many weather delays and SJC has almost none. OAK is too small – no lounge at all and few options when there are problems. I agree with Andrew that I wish there were more transcon flights out of SJC but nothing beats the vacation departure to Hawaii out of SJC!

    On top of the on time performance, the Priority Pass lounge in SJC is quite nice for a domestic lounge and never crowded. Traffic is almost always less of a hassle to SJC than SFO and as noted many people fly to SJC because their business location is closer. I would hazard a guess that the bay area sees more business travelers than the City sees vacationers. When I lived in PDX I flew to SJC 26 times a year and to SFO – 0

    SFO is a lovely airport if you can battle your way to and from it and the weather is kind to you but that’s the exception, not the rule. I avoid it if I can.

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