Alaska Airlines defends its home turf in newest spat with Delta

Mar 19, 2021

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Alaska Airlines is putting up a fight in Anchorage.

On Friday, the Seattle-based carrier announced its first-ever summer seasonal service between Anchorage (ANC) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP). The twice-weekly flight will operate on Saturdays and Sundays between June 19 and Aug. 15, using a Boeing 737-800, with introductory fares start at $98 one-way.

Friday’s MSP announcement joins several other recently announced destinations from Alaska’s most populous city, including Las Vegas (LAS), Denver (DEN) and San Francisco (SFO). All in, the carrier will offer nonstop flights to 11 cities in the lower 48 from Anchorage, including two to Hawaii: Honolulu (HNL) and Maui (OGG).

Map courtesy of Alaska Airlines

“With a massive network across the state and our naturally socially distanced outdoor spaces, this route offers easy access to Denali, kayaking, sightseeing, and the most sustainably managed fishing in the world. Alaska is a safe and attractive travel destination for friends and family,” said Marilyn Romano, regional vice president, in a statement.

Unless it’s a brand-new long-haul route or another major announcement, individual routes don’t typically get their own press release.

Yet Friday’s news is different.

It follows exactly one week after partner-turned-adversary Delta Air Lines announced a sweeping expansion across five cities in Alaska, adding new routes and upgauging aircraft from many of its mainland hubs to Anchorage (ANC), Fairbanks (FAI), Juneau (JNU), Ketchikan (KTN) and Sitka (SIT).

Delta’s expansion seemingly reignited the competition between the two rivals.

Related: Delta makes big play for Alaska, adds several new routes amid pandemic pivot

The carriers had a strong relationship in the early 2010s that included a robust codeshare and frequent flyer alliance. By the middle of the decade, however, the partnership frayed as Delta moved instead to build its own hub in Seattle, ultimately competing head-to-head with Alaska on many of its most lucrative routes.

The partnership ultimately ended in 2017 amid an escalating turf battle for Seattle. Since then, Alaska’s been in growth mode — boosting the Seattle hub with new routes, while also rethinking many elements of the travel experience.

Now, despite the pandemic, the airlines seem to be back at it. Though Alaska’s based in Seattle, the carrier’s namesake is the state nicknamed “The Last Frontier.” The airline seemingly isn’t going let Delta expand in its territory without putting up a fight.

Take a look at the second sentence in Friday’s press release. “This additional nonstop flight means Alaska Airlines will provide the most nonstops from the state of Alaska than any other carrier,” it reads. Guess which airline comes in at number two? Delta, according to Cirium timetables.

Furthermore, Alaska’s $98 one-way fares are another jab at the incumbents. (Minneapolis-based Sun Country Airlines also flies between MSP and ANC). At the time of its announcement, the carrier appeared to be undercutting the competition by at least $50 on every single day the route operates.

Since breaking up with Delta, Alaska Airlines has turned to American Airlines to fuel its growth ambitions. The two carriers launched a new partnership, and Alaska is on the cusp of joining the Oneworld alliance later this month.

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“We defended ourselves and grew market share when a major competitor came into our hub and tried to steal share from us,” Alaska’s longtime CEO Brad Tilden said about Delta, in an exclusive TPG interview publishing on Monday.

Featured photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines. Additional reporting Ben Mutzabaugh/The Points Guy.

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