Alaska Airlines to shift more Airbus flying to Seattle

Feb 26, 2020

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Alaska Airlines plans to open a new pilot base for the Airbus A320 family in Seattle, as part of a plan to fly more of the European jets through its home airport.

As part of the change, Alaska will close its Airbus pilot base in Los Angeles (LAX) by the end of 2021 as it refocuses flying from the Southern California airport on Boeing 737 jets, the airline and Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) union confirmed separately to TPG. The changes were first reported by The Seattle Times.

Alaska plans to expand flying on A319, A320 and A321neo jets from Seattle/Tacoma International Airport (SEA) with the new pilot base, spokesman Ray Lane said. At the same time, the carrier will expand its 737 crew base in Los Angeles.

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The pilot staffing changes comes as Alaska evaluates how to replace the 61 A319 and A320 jets it inherited from Virgin America. The airline is considering either more A321neos or 737 MAX 9s and 10s and plans to make a decision by year-end, Alaska’s executive vice president of planning and strategy Shane Tackett said in January.

“We have an opportunity to replace 61 A319 and A320 aircraft with larger gauge, more efficient assets… [that] would give us the ability to generate more revenue while lower unit costs,” he said.

Alaska has committed to operating its Airbus fleet until at least 2025, ALPA spokeswoman Tania Reyes Mills told TPG.

Related: Alaska evaluates Boeing or Airbus options to replace Virgin America fleet

In addition to the A319 and A320s, Alaska operated 10 A321neos at the end of 2019, its latest fleet plan shows. The carrier had an order for 32 737 MAX 9s, plus a cancellable commitment for 30 A320neos.

“While we don’t yet know the exact makeup of our future fleet, we do know the 737 MAX will be a significant part of it,” Alaska told pilots in a Feb. 21 memo, according to The Seattle Times.

Seattle is already home to the most Airbus-operated flights in Alaska’s network. In March, nearly a quarter of the carrier’s 7,172 flights scheduled aboard an A320 family jet will depart from Seattle, according to Cirium schedules. San Francisco (SFO) will see nearly 15% of departures and Los Angeles just over 10%.

Related: How to Tell If Your Alaska Flight Features the New Cabin Design

Alaska will operate flights on A320s and A321neos from Seattle in March, schedules show.

The carrier is doubling down to bolster its position in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest this year. Alaska has cancelled a number of routes between California and points in the Midwest and along the East Coast in favor of more flights and routes along the West Coast.

In addition, Alaska unveiled an expanded partnership with American Airlines and plans to join the Oneworld alliance earlier in February. American will launch new service between Seattle and Bangalore (BLR) in October, and Seattle and London Heathrow (LHR) in 2021 under the pact, which will allow Alaska to sell onward connections onto the American-operated flights.

Related: Alaska Airlines plans to join Oneworld, forms alliance with American

Featured image by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.

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