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Alaska Airlines strikes back in Seattle with route to Delta focus city

March 06, 2020
3 min read
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-900ER Seattle
Alaska Airlines strikes back in Seattle with route to Delta focus city
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Alaska Airlines is striking back in Seattle with a new route to Delta Air Lines focus city in Cincinnati, as battle for Seattle between the rivals appears to be heating up again.

Alaska will add Cincinnati (CVG) to its map with a daily flight from its Seattle (SEA) home, the carrier said Friday. The airline will fly Boeing 737s on the new route, which begins Aug. 18 and will go up against Delta's nonstop service on the route.

The Cincinnati addition comes as competition between Alaska and Delta in Seattle heats up. On Monday, Atlanta-based Delta unveiled new routes between Seattle and Columbus (CMH) and Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) — a fortress hub for Alaska partner American Airlines — as well as more flights on other routes from the Pacific Northwest city. The new Delta flights will go head-to-head against both American and Alaska to DFW and against Alaska to Columbus.

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Delta's route announcement of those routes came just two weeks after Alaska and American unveiled a renewed partnership. The pact includes new flights on American between Seattle and Bangalore (BLR) and London Heathrow (LHR), with Alaska helping funnel connecting passengers to and from those flights.

All of the route additions come as U.S. airline executives warn of an imminent air travel slump that could compare to the one seen after 9/11. Fear of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is driving the drop in demand.

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“There is a lot of anxiety, a lot of discussion right now," said Alaska CEO Brad Tilden at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Aviation Summit in Washington on Thursday. He pointed out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) head Robert Redfield encourages Americans to keep flying where there is a "low risk of transmission," but acknowledged that Alaska's bookings are down for March.

Related: US airline execs warn coronavirus impact ‘could be worse than 9/11’ downturn

Alaska has yet to join JetBlue Airways and United Airlines parring schedules due to the drop in demand. However, Tilden warned Thursday that the airline will "probably have something soon."

The Seattle area is the current epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. As of noon PT on Thursday, there were 51 confirmed cases and 10 deaths in the metropolitan area, according to King County public health authorities. The CDC reported 99 confirmed cases and 10 deaths nationally on Thursday.

Tilden, for his part, was largely sanguine about the business impact on Alaska from the COVID-19 fears.

"This thing does unfortunately happen in our industry -- we will get through it, we will get to the other side," he said.

Related: Coronavirus flight waivers and changes

Featured image by Alberto Riva