Alaska Airlines Keeps Turboprops as Focus Shifts to Pacific Northwest
Alaska Airlines regional subsidiary Horizon Air will bring back several De Havilland Canada Dash 8 turboprops this year, and delay the retirement of others, among a renewed focus on Pacific Northwest flying.
The Seattle-based carrier will return two previously-removed Dash 8-400s to service by the end of 2019 under its revised fleet plan, a second-quarter financial statement shows. The company will end the year with 33 of the aircraft in service.
In addition, Horizon will slow the retirement of Dash 8s in 2020 by removing just one aircraft during the year. The airline's previous plans called for the retirement of eight aircraft next year.
An Alaska spokesperson tells TPG that the Dash 8s are "needed for routes," without providing additional details.
Last month, Alaska CEO Brad Tilden told analysts that the carrier would focus growth on defending its core Pacific Northwest markets next year.
“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 in response to questions on Alaska's 2020 capacity plans.
Tilden's comments marked a small shift in strategy for Alaska. The airline has been focused on growing in California to boost its share in the key West Coast state since its 2016 acquisition of Virgin America.
Alaska faces continued growth by Delta Air Lines in its home Seattle market. Delta established a hub at Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) in 2014 and is now the second largest carrier at the airport.
The changes to Alaska's Dash 8 plans come amid other fleet changes. The carrier has shifted its first three Boeing 737 MAX deliveries to 2020 from 2019, and cancelled a commitment for three Embraer 175s due in 2021 with SkyWest Airlines.
"Alaska has seen significant regional capacity growth over the past few years and will likely take a step back on growth in the near-term as they focus on route maturation," said Helane Becker, an analyst at Cowen, in a report Wednesday on fleet changes at SkyWest.
The Dash 8s at Alaska are the last remaining in the continental US. The type was fairly common until last year when both American Airlines and United Airlines removed the last Dash 8s from their feeder fleets. Ravn Alaska continues to fly the aircraft in the state of Alaska.