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Alaska Airlines will soon be relocating its base of pilots and crew members at New York’s Kennedy airport (JFK) to California, the airline said Tuesday. The move is to beef up the airline’s operations on the West Coast, and it is one of many changes amid the airline’s ongoing merger with Virgin America.

Alaska’s aircraft and the more than 100 pilots that are currently based at JFK, LaGuardia (LGA) and New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), will all be relocated to Californian hubs. JFK-based pilots are being offered the choice to transfer to either Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO), an airline spokesperson told TPG.

Although the base is moving, the airline will continue to serve the key New York market. Currently, the Seattle-based carrier operates 14 daily flights to JFK, including five daily flights to both SFO and LAX — and it recently announced new nonstop service between JFK and San Jose, California (SJC), and a third daily Seattle flight beginning early July. Alaska also opened a new lounge at JFK at the end of April.

The airline operates 19 flights daily out of EWR.  Alaska effectively ended its service at LGA at the end of April when it announced it would be ending its routes from Dallas Love-Field (DAL) to LGA by October — the carrier’s only flight to LGA. At the same time, Alaska said it was ending its DAL to Washington, DC, (DCA) route, too. The airline said the routes were “not strategic” for the company at the time. (As of now, Alaska still has flights from DCA to Seattle (SEA), San Francisco (SFO), Portland (PDX) and Los Angeles (LAX)).

“This was a difficult decision — but a necessary one — based on the need to match our pilot staffing with the geographic areas on the West Coast where we deploy our aircraft every day,” an Alaska spokesperson told TPGAlaska has West Coast hubs in Seattle (SEA); Portland, Oregon (PDX); Anchorage, Alaska (ANC); San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX) and serves 115 destinations.

Alaska announced that it acquired Virgin America in April 2016 for $4 billion, which made the Seattle airline the fifth largest carrier in the US.


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