Alaska Airlines moved toward a semi-shuttle frequency for its lucrative routes up and down the West Coast, reasserting its traditional strength in California markets as it readies itself for Virgin America’s entry into its Seattle home base in March. Alaska, which calls itself ‘Seattle’s hometown airline’, will raise its daily dozen flights to LAX to 15 in April and will offer seven daily weekday flights to San Diego, going up to eight in June, plus nine to Orange County up from eight, both by late April. Its San Francisco International frequencies from Seattle will be at eight, and its San Jose flights will total seven on weekdays.
Departures will be set at easy-to-remember times: either on the hour or on the half hour. Virgin America, based at SFO, will begin its SeaTac service in mid-March with three daily roundtrips, and will add four frequencies between SeaTac and LAX by May. Alaska now has about 60% of the market between SeaTac and LAX; it is the most heavily travelled domestic route at SeaTac, with about 700,000 passengers a year. Southwest also competes on the route and indeed is a major player in the California corridor; JetBlue has its little piece of the market, too.
Virgin’s fares may be low enough to tempt travellers, but Alaska’s 'SEA Double' promotion will give double loyalty points on the SFO and LAX routes for much of this year. To cover the new schedule, Alaska will end service within California between Oakland and the Orange County airport as of the first of April. It will also transfer its Seattle-Reno service to its regional unit, Horizon.