Alaska Airlines continues West Coast focus with new San Luis Obispo flights

Sep 4, 2019

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Alaska Airlines’ network focus continues to shift to its West Coast map with expanded service to San Luis Obispo in California.

The Seattle-based carrier will add daily service to San Luis Obispo (SBP) from both Portland, Oregon, and San Diego in 2020, it said today. The new routes will complement Alaska’s existing service between Seattle (SEA) and San Luis Obispo that began in 2017.

Alaska will begin the San Diego (SAN) flight on Jan. 7, and the Portland (PDX) flight on June 18. Both routes will be flown with 76-seat Embraer 175s.

San Luis Obispo serves California’s growing Central Coast wine region centered around Paso Robles. It is also home to highly-ranked California Polytechnic State University, or Cal Poly, which is known for its aerospace, architecture and engineering programs.

Related: Cool California Wine Regions That Aren’t Napa or Sonoma

The San Luis Obispo announcement comes less than a week after the airline released plans to retrench somewhat to its West Coast roots. Alaska will suspend 11 routes primarily from its Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN) and San Francisco (SFO) bases to Midwest or East Coast destinations beginning this fall. At the same time, it will add eight routes from the same bases to points in the West.

The new San Luis Obispo routes fit this West Coast-centric strategy by expanding in a market that is part of Alaska’s core geography — and one where it faces little to no competition.

Related: Alaska Airlines Adds 8 Routes, Drops 11 in West Coast Shakeup

No airlines fly between the city on California’s central coast and either Portland or San Diego, according to Diio by Cirium schedules. American Airlines serves San Luis Obispo from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Phoenix (PHX), and United Airlines from Denver (DEN), Los Angeles and San Francisco.

All of Alaska’s network changes in the past week fit with the strategy defending its position in the Pacific Northwest and state of Alaska that CEO Brad Tilden outlined in July.

“The first priority would be… doing everything we need to do to sort of defend and grow markets out of the state of Washington, in the state of Alaska, the state of Oregon,” he said on the carrier’s 2020 capacity plans.

As part of this effort, Alaska has opted to retain nine De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400s slated for retirement by the end of 2020. While it has not said specifically what the aircraft will be used for, the turboprops are suited for shorter flights in the Pacific Northwest that could allow E175s to be used on longer routes along the West Coast.

Alaska will also begin to feel the impact of the Boeing 737 MAX grounding in 2020, if the aircraft is not re-certified before the end of the year. The airline had planned to take three aircraft this year, but postponed the deliveries to 2020 in the second quarter.

The airline anticipates nine 737 MAX deliveries in 2020, its latest fleet plan shows.

Featured image by Edward Russell/TPG.

Related: How to Earn Miles With the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Program


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