Alaska adds Hawaiian flights as it cuts Mexican frequencies

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Alaska Airlines will bolster Hawaiian and mainland US flying as it cuts Mexican capacity following the swine flu outbreak.

The carrier's Mexican capacity will drop 37% starting 2 July for summer and fall, but Alaska will not eliminate any of its nine Mexican destinations.

"We will continue to serve all our Mexico routes but will have fewer flights until we see a turnaround in demand," Alaska vice president of planning and revenue management Andrew Harrison says in a statement.

Capacity will be reallocated to Houston, Atlanta and Hawaii.

Recently Hawaiian Airlines CEO Mark Dunkerley highlighted Alaska as one of several carriers adding capacity to the transpacific market, noting those airlines were lowering fares on those routes during the past couple of months.

Alaska will advance the launch of its new Portland, Oregon flight to Kahului, Hawaii by nearly a month. Thrice weekly flights will start on 3 July and become a daily effective 7 August.

Then Alaska will inaugurate four-times-weekly service between Oakland, California and Kahului on 9 November, followed the next day by thrice-weekly flights from Oakland to Kona.

In the interim, Seattle-Honolulu service will be upped to twice daily from 2 July.

"Hawaii has become a major market for Alaska Airlines in just a short time, thanks to the loyalty of our customers and the great service provided by our employees," Alaska vice president of marketing, sales and customer experience Steve Jarvis says, adding the carrier will have 59 weekly flights to four Hawaiian islands.

Alaska will also bolster its mainland network with daily nonstops between Seattle and Houston from 23 September and daily Seattle-Atlanta flights from 23 October.

"We are shifting capacity into markets where we are seeing higher demand. Houston and Atlanta are two of the largest markets that we don't currently serve nonstop from Seattle," Harrison says.

Schedule changes will not impact Alaska's plan to shrink capacity by 6% overall in 2009.

Alaska will face competition in several of its new markets.

Continental Airlines links Seattle and Houston while Delta Air Lines connects its Atlanta hub with Seattle, schedules in Innovata show.

While no one flies from Oakland to Kona or Kahului, United Airlines flies from nearby San Francisco to both Hawaiian destinations, according to Innovata.