Alaska Airlines drops 5 Bay Area routes, adds 2 as it refocuses on West

Oct 7, 2019

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Alaska Airlines is taking further steps to refocus its California route map on its core territory in the western U.S., shaving five more routes from its current Bay Area schedules.

The Seattle-based carrier will end two routes from San Francisco (SFO): Nashville (BNA) on Nov. 4, and Raleigh/Durham (RDU) on Nov. 3, according to Diio by Cirium schedules. Alaska will also end three routes from San Jose (SJC) in California: New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) and Orange County (SNA) on Jan. 6, and Tucson (TUS) on Jan. 5.

Alaska is not only cutting routes. Next year, the airline will begin twice-daily flights between San Francisco and Phoenix (PHX), and daily flights between San Jose and Puerto Vallarta (PVR), the data shows. Both routes will be flown with Airbus A320s with up to 156 seats. The Puerto Vallarta route was first reported by Airline Route.

Related: Alaska, American slash partnership, eliminate reciprocal mileage redemptions

The airline has operated the San Francisco-Phoenix route on a seasonal basis in February and March for the past two years, according to Diio.

The moves come less than a week after Alaska dropped flights to Kona (KOA) from both Sacramento (SMF) and San Francisco, citing a change in the competitive environment. At the same time, the airline will boost service to the airport on the big island of Hawaii from San Diego (SAN) and San Jose.

And in August, Alaska dropped 11 routes to mostly the Midwest and East Coast while adding eight routes along the West Coast. It also announced two new San Luis Obispo (SBP) routes.

“There are so many places within the West where we’re really good,” Brandon Pedersen, Alaska’s chief financial officer, said about the network changes at an investor conference in early September. “We’ve got point-of-sale on both sides [of these West Coast markets], strong loyalty — that’s a much higher profit potential use of the airplane.”

Related: Why Alaska Airlines is returning to its routes in the West

Alaska Airlines route map additions (blue) and cuts (red) this fall and in 2020. (Map courtesy of Diio by Cirium)


Alaska added many of the routes to the Midwest and East Coast from California after its acquisition of Bay Area-based Virgin America in 2016. At the time, it said the deal was a way to boost its presence in the Golden State, where it lagged many of its competitors.

However, beginning this summer, Alaska management changed tone and spoke of the importance to defend and expand in its core markets.

“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,” Alaska CEO Brad Tilden said in July on the airline’s 2020 growth plan

No route has been cut at Seattle/Tacoma (SEA), the carrier’s home base, since the changes to Alaska’s California network began rolling out in August. Some of the Midwestern and East Coast cities that are losing nonstop flights on the airline to California —  Kansas City (MCI), for example — are gaining frequencies to Seattle, according to Diio.

Related: Alaska Airlines’ Newest Route From Everett’s Paine Field Is Palm Springs

Delta Air Lines continues to grow in Seattle, the SkyTeam Alliance carrier’s primary Pacific gateway.

Alaska is keeping a number of its De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 turboprops in its fleet longer than planned. The aircraft primarily fly routes in the Pacific Northwest, where Tilden has said Alaska’s focus is now on growing and defending its market share.

Once Alaska ends its latest set of Bay Area-routes, United Airlines will become the only airline flying between San Francisco and both Nashville and Raleigh/Durham, according to Diio. From San Jose, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways will continue to fly to JFK, and Southwest Airlines to Orange County and Tucson.

Featured image by Edward Russell/TPG.

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