Alaska Airlines has announced it is expanding its partnership with SkyWest Airlines with the addition of three new destinations from Alaska's Northwest hubs to be flown using Embraer 175s, a brand new aircraft type to be introduced to the airline’s fleet.
The US carrier confirms SkyWest has purchased seven E175s from the Brazilian manufacturer to fly on its behalf under a capacity purchase agreement (CPA). The first three aircraft will arrive in the summer of 2015 and will be used to introduce daily flights from Seattle to Milwaukee and Oklahoma City and from Portland to St Louis from July 1, 2015. The remaining four aircraft will be delivered in the first quarter of 2016 and the carrier will make a decision on their deployment next year.
"The E175 is new for the Alaska brand and fills a specific need to serve ‘long, thin routes' – destinations that are too distant for our regional aircraft, but currently don't have enough customer demand to fill a mainline jet," said Andrew Harrison, senior vice president of planning and revenue management for Alaska Airlines.
"The smaller, but spacious, E175 jet will not only open up new cities, but provide feed traffic to our Northwest hubs, while giving customers a comfortable experience on these longer flights," he added.
In Alaska Airlines service, SkyWest will configure the aircraft in a 76-seat arrangement with 12 Business and 64 Economy seats and will offer onboard amenities that include Wi-Fi Internet access, streaming inflight entertainment.
Alaska Airlines has been growing at its Seattle hub and this year launched services to six new cities - Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cancun, Detroit, New Orleans and Tampa. With the addition of these new SkyWest-operated flights, Alaska will next summer offer 298 peak-day departures to 81 destinations from Seattle – three times its nearest rival. From Portland, starting in July, it will offer 125 peak-day departures to 44 destinations – more than any other carrier.
In our analysis, below, we highlight Alaska Airlines’ departure capacity from Seattle’s Tacoma International Airport and Portland International Airport during each schedule season of the past ten years. The data shows that the airline's summer departure capacity from Seattle has risen 15.5 per cent between summer 2005 and summer 2014, while summer departure capacity from Portland has increased 14.7 per cent during the same period.
The graphic clearly illustrates the changes in seasonal offering from the two airports, especially Seattle. What is interesting to note is that winter capacity has risen faster than the summer offering during the analysis period; up 31.7 per cent from Seattle and 31.6 per cent from Portland between winter 2005 and the current winter 2014 schedule.
SkyWest already operates 40 flights a day between 14 cities on behalf of Alaska Airlines using 70-seat Bombardier CRJ700 airliners. By August 2016, this will increase to 52 flights a day to 17 cities following the introduction of the new E175 operation and expanded network of the CRJ700s.
"We're excited to enhance our Alaska partnership and bring the Alaska product to the airline's customers in the Midwest," said Russell ‘Chip’ Childs, president, SkyWest Airlines. "The addition of the E175 to our Alaska portfolio is an excellent addition to an outstanding partnership."
The regional carrier already operates the E175 for United Airlines under the United Express brand and is one of the largest customers for the next generation E175-E2 currently under development by the Brazilian manufacturer. However, as it looks to the new airliner, it is out with the old and SkyWest has confirmed this month that it will retire its last remaining EMB-120 Brasilias from service as it transitions to an all-jet fleet.
The 30-seater turboprop is the smallest aircraft in its fleet and is flown exclusively for United Airlines. The retirement is, in part, in response to increased costs and additional challenges associated with new FAR117 flight and duty rules, implemented in January 2014 and will see the type removed from service by June 2015.
Separately, SkyWest has announced that wholly-owned subsidiary ExpressJet Airlines has executed an agreement with United Airlines to reduce the term of the existing 50-seat ERJ145 contract between ExpressJet and United from November 2020 to December 2017, subject to certain extension rights by United.