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Can Alaska Compete with Delta for the Seattle Market?

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TPG reader Dale sent me a message on Facebook to ask:

“When can we expect Alaska to make a bold move to slow down Delta’s efforts here in Seattle market ? So far, they have not lit the fire!” 

I love to watch airlines duke it out for control. With so many mergers these days, it’s fun to see a little friendly competition, especially in a market that’s not totally dominated by one carrier.

Seattle was Alaska’s market for a long time, but in the past several years, Delta has crept into their territory by adding international flights and a lot more domestic flights, including premium transcontinental service from JFK. I don’t expect that to slow down any time soon. Seattle’s a great city for premium fares, for Asia Pacific travel, and even for travel to Europe, so I can see why Delta has been decided to swoop in.

Will Alaska make a bold move to take over the Seattle market? First, they need to update their product! Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Will Alaska make a bold move to take over the Seattle market? Updating their product doesn’t hurt! Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

One thing to consider is that Delta and Alaska are partners, and have been for many years. However, there are some cracks in the foundation; both airlines recently cut down on the ability to bank miles and points to either carrier. You can still do it, and there’s reciprocity in the form of frequent flyer benefits, but it’s decreasing.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Alaska and Delta completely cut ties over the next year or two, and Alaska synced up with American Airlines and the Oneworld alliance, especially as carriers open up more Europe to West Coast routes. I think this could happen in 2015, but right now, both carriers are making money from their code-sharing and partnership, so they aren’t quite ready to completely disband.

Since Delta is highly profitable right now and growing internationally, I see the airline puffing its chest out and making a bigger play in Seattle, and frankly, I can see why people there want to fly Delta. Delta has nicer premium products, while Alaska’s transcontinental planes and seats are outdated. For my last visit to Seattle, I flew Delta home (not Alaska or American) because I prefer premium seating. On a five hour red-eye flight; those newer premium seats/lie flat beds can really make the difference.

If Alaska wants to keep up, I think it needs to do more than sever ties or make a bold move, the airline also has to invest in its product. Apparently, Alaska feels the same way, as it’s in the process of installing new seats and power outlets across a portion of its fleet.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.
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