Alaska sustains West Coast capacity to fend off competition

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As Alaska Air Group works toward an 8% capacity reduction for the full year, the carrier is not wavering in serving West Coast markets as Virgin America and JetBlue Airways bolster their presence in the region.

Instead of shrinking capacity in some markets, Alaska's winter schedules for Seattle service to Los Angeles and San Francisco are about flat year over year in response to competition from the new entrants, Alaska Airlines VP finance and Controller Brandon Pedersen said during Imperial Capital's second annual global opportunities conference in New York City on 18 November.

"We plan to constantly adjust our schedule in response to competitive changes in the landscape there. Recently we announced service from Portland [Oregon] to Long Beach [California] in response to some new competition there," Pedersen says.

JetBlue began linking Portland with Long Beach in October. Alaska will mirror its twice daily service from February.

Virgin America and JetBlue have launched service on city pairs already served by Alaska throughout the year. In the later half of 2007, Virgin America launched Los Angeles flights to Washington DC and San Francisco, followed by Seattle service to San Francisco and Los Angeles earlier this year.

JetBlue competes with Alaska after launching flights from Seattle to San Diego and Long Beach. Other recently-inaugurated flights from Long Beach include San Francisco and San Jose.

Despite the competition, Pedersen says Alaska does not intend to enter a major airline alliance.

However, he expects the company to broaden offerings from its Seattle base as it strengthens a marketing agreement with SkyTeam carrier Delta Air Lines.

"We think there's additional opportunity to continue to grow out of that city," Pedersen notes.

Alaska and Horizon will provide feeder traffic to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles to the merged Delta and Northwest Airlines. The deal makes the Seattle-based carrier the preferred Delta partner on the West Coast.