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Alaska shifts New York and Washington capacity to West Coast

Alaska Airlines is shifting capacity from New York LaGuardia and Ronald Reagan Washington National airport to its core West Coast markets, as it leases 10 slot pairs at the airports to Southwest Airlines.

The carrier will use the freed-up aircraft to add frequencies from its Seattle Tacoma base after it ends flights to both East Coast markets from Dallas Love Field in October, says Nicholas Haan, director of network strategy at Alaska, on the sidelines of the ACI-NA Jumpstart conference in Cleveland.

Alaska will lease the six slot pairs at LaGuardia and four pairs at National to Southwest from October. The airports are limited by perimeters that bars Alaska from using the slots to serve its West Coast bases.

Southwest will use the slots to add service to New Orleans, Orlando and West Palm Beach from LaGuardia, and to Oklahoma City from National, as well as add frequencies on existing routes.

Alaska gained the slots through its December 2016 acquisition of Virgin America, which acquired them through the divestitures made by American Airlines and US Airways in exchange for regulatory approval of their 2013 merger.

Alaska will continue to use its two gates at Dallas Love Field, and will increase frequencies to Portland (Oregon), San Jose (California) and Seattle Tacoma as it ends service to the East Coast, Haan says.

The carrier is growing in Seattle both to maintain its share against expanding competitors like Delta Air Lines but also to retain control of its gates under a recently signed lease agreement.

"We've ramped up our growth in response to that," says Haan on the lease agreement.

Alaska will operate 7.8% more flights from Seattle in July compared to a year ago, FlightGlobal schedules data shows. It will operate an average of 324 departures per day that month.

Seattle allocates gates annually based on the average number of flights an airline operates through the airport during a specified period.

In addition, Alaska continues to focus on growing in California, says Haan. This includes adding intra-state capacity, particularly out of San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, he adds.

Alaska acquired Virgin America in a large part to boost its position in California against larger competitors Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.

The carrier added 32 markets focused on California in 2017, Haan's presentation shows. However, it has since ended at least nine of those routes, including Los Angeles to Cancun, Havana and Orlando; and San Francisco to Cancun, Denver and Mexico City.

Alaska plans to grow capacity by roughly 6.5% year-over-year in 2018.

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