ANALYSIS: Alaska grows in Salt Lake where others retrenched

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Alaska Airlines’ rapid second-quarter expansion at Salt Lake City has injected additional seats on to routes where other carriers have retrenched in recent years.

An analysis of industry data shows that three of the seven new routes Alaska launched in June from Salt Lake City International airport have lost one or more competitors since 2009, and all have seen double-digit capacity reductions.

The new routes Alaska added in June include Salt Lake City to Boise (Idaho), operated once daily by regional subsidiary Horizon Air using a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop.

Just a few years ago both Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines served that route, carrying nearly 426,000 seats on about 10 flights daily in 2009.

But Southwest abandoned the market in 2012, and Delta trimmed its departures by about one-third by 2013.

The result: Between 2009 and 2013, capacity from Salt Lake City to Boise tumbled 55% to about 191,000 seats, with an average of less than five daily flights.

Alaska’s June expansion at Salt Lake City included another six new destinations from the city: Portland (Oregon), Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Jose.

As with Boise, capacity and competition on all of those routes also declined notably in recent years.

For instance, in 2009 three carriers — JetBlue Airways, Southwest and Delta — offered a total of nearly 390,000 seats and an average of more than eight daily flights between Salt Lake City and San Diego.

By the following year, both Southwest and JetBlue ceded the route solely to Delta, which trimmed capacity by 2013 to 245,000 seats, down 37% from 2009, according to Innovata.

Likewise, between 2009 and 2013, capacity from Salt Lake City dipped 30% to San Francisco, 14% to Los Angeles and 20% or more to San Jose, Las Vegas and Portland, data shows.

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Those declines mirror a broader trend at Salt Lake City, where total domestic available seats fell in 2013 to 11.7 million, down 22% since 2009, according to Innovata.

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Alaska’s new service brings that carrier’s number of daily flights from Salt Lake City to more than one dozen, and comes roughly one year after the airline began service to Salt Lake City in April 2013 with twice-daily service to Seattle.

Alaska added a third daily round-trip flight on that route in June.

The airline has been able to inject seats into the market thanks to improved aircraft utilization and the elimination of “underperforming” routes, Alaska executives have said during earnings calls this year.

Those routes include Portland to Atlanta, which the carrier intends to end in September, and Los Angeles to San Jose, which ceased in May.