Alaska Airlines cuts 2 transcon routes in route-map shakeup

Feb 4, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

By the end of the pandemic, airline route maps will look a whole lot different than they did in 2019.

As carriers boost service to leisure markets in the Southeast, many business routes — especially those to secondary cities — have seen significant pullbacks.

The latest route-map readjustment comes from Alaska Airlines, which dropped two transcon routes through 2021, per Cirium timetables and later confirmed by a carrier spokesperson.

The two routes — Philadelphia (PHL) to San Francisco (SFO) and Newark (EWR) to San Jose, California (SJC) — were both scheduled to resume in March 2021, but they’ve now been suspended for (at least) the year.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

The former was last flown by Alaska in November 2019 and the latter was cut in April 2020 at the outset of the pandemic.

The odds of the routes returning likely depends on the trajectory of the recovery in demand for travel. Until there’s widespread herd immunity that facilitates a meaningful recovery in travel demand, these flights may not operate again.

The Philly to San Francisco route has had an interesting history. Virgin America first entered the market in April 2012 with twice-daily flights in each direction. Roughly one year later, the route was downgraded to once daily, before being cut altogether in October 2014.

Other airlines: United suspends 3 LaGuardia routes, boosts other Florida flights

In September 2017 — about a year after the Alaska Airlines and Virgin America merger was announced —  Virgin restarted once-daily PHL to SFO flights. Alaska took over the route once the acquisition was complete and flew it until November 2019.

Although San Francisco is an Alaska Airlines hub, the route’s performance clearly wasn’t good enough to justify flying in winter 2019 and beyond. (In fact, U.S. Department of Transportation data provided by Cirium shows that the route was in the lowest quartile of profitability for both the SFO hub and network in general in 2019.)

And now, with Alaska on the cusp of joining Oneworld, loyal flyers can choose one of American Airlines’ Philly to San Francisco flights — and still earn miles and enjoy elite-status benefits during the journey.

In addition to Oneworld membership, Alaska and American Airlines are forming an alliance, but codeshare flights are primarily limited to routes from both Los Angeles (LAX) and Seattle (SEA).

More: American, Alaska Airlines outline reciprocal elite benefits, upgrades

As for Newark, Alaska announced a “significant expansion to the New York City area” back in 2016, which included three new routes, including the San Jose connection.

Historically, Alaska has seen limited competition on the EWR to SJC route — United flew it daily from March 2017 to October 2018. But, with coronavirus cases flaring on both coasts, there doesn’t seem to be enough demand to warrant flying between Newark and the carrier’s San Jose focus city.

Alaska isn’t just cutting two routes; it’s also making a host of other schedule adjustments to its transcon flying, as reported by Cranky Flyer and confirmed by Cirium data.

Flights between Chicago (ORD) and Los Angeles were originally scheduled to resume in March 2021. Now, the carrier intends to restart flights in the fall.

Alaska is making a seasonal adjustment to its Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to San Diego (SAN) route, which was originally scheduled for year-round service. Flights will now end in April 2021 and resume in October.

Separately, the carrier’s Washington/Dulles (IAD) to San Francisco service will now resume in May 2021, two months later than previously scheduled. Alaska is also downgrading the frequency to once daily throughout the summer.

Featured photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.