Could someone please tell me how an Alaska Airlines flight between Salt Lake City and San Jose, Ca. is going to make money? Because I can’t see it. In fact, if you believe in that flight, don’t read this column, where the assumption is that the flight is ridiculous.

Forbes contributor Ted Reed outlines why he thinks Alaska needs to make nice with Delta in order to avoid an “unwinnable battle” and to benefit from the future revenue that Delta’s international flying while bring to its Seattle partners.

Here’s a snippet of the article, check out the full text here. What are your thoughts?

Of course Alaska wants to fight back against Delta, the arrogant intruder from the South.  And who can resist backing the relatively small airline with deep community ties that it built up over 66 years? The problem is that the battle has pushed Alaska to act like an angry kid, telling Delta that if it doesn’t stop, Alaska will hold its breath until it turns blue. The fact is that Delta has no choice but to build a Seattle hub. Delta is one of three global U.S. carriers and it needs to offer Asia service – particularly China service — from a West Coast hub, where it can gather passengers from the states to the east, all 45 of them. The best U.S. West Coast hub is San Francisco, where United is long established.  For years, that has left Delta and American, as well as United, fighting it out at LAX, a place where nobody can win.

It is easy to forget that Alaska and Delta are partners in a code share agreements.  I don’t know all the details of why they enabled their relationship to break down. My sources say that the accountants who run Alaska understandably insisted on squeezing every last penny out of the relationship, rather than backing down a little bit on price and rather than giving Delta passengers preference over passengers from other partners.

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This is part four of a fifteen part trip report from my travels to the Maldives and Dubai. This picture report covers the second part of an Emirates A380 w/ shower spa trip report from LAX – Dubai (DXB). There were so many amenities on the flight besides the shower that I need two posts to cover everything…

So, picking up where the last post left off (see – Trip Report – Emirates A380 First Class LAX – Dubai (DXB) w/ Shower Spa Part 1), let’s get to the food, bed, and shower!

Food – Now, the cool thing about dining in Emirates First is that you can customize your meal and mix and match between all the different choices. Let’s say you want the cod but you like the veggies and sides that are included with the lamb, you can swap those out. With a la carte / any time dining you can choose between all the different courses and meal types and order them at any time. Eggs from the breakfast menu and steak from the dinner, you’re good to go! On our flight there was a breakfast menu, appetizer menu, soup menu, main course dinner menu, dessert menu, and light bites menu. That was in addition to the extensive liquor and beverage menu. Oh, and the liquor selection is pretty impressive - Chivas Regal Royal Salute 21 Years, Old Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Glenfiddich 21 Years, Cuvee Dom Perignon 2000. All presented in a leather bound menu holder of course.

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I started with the canapés and some some Dom…

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Normally, I’m not a caviar fan but how could I pass on my chance to have some in Emirates First Class? The chilled caviar was presented with chopped onion, boiled egg, sour cream, lemon, melba toast, and soft blini pancakes. I have to say, it was all quite delicious, really enjoyed it!

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For dinner I went with the salad of roast cod – seasonal mesclun leaves topped with steamed fingerling potato slices, flaked cod and a warm cherry tomato and caper vinaigrette. Also delicious, five star restaurant quality, the fish was perfectly cooked.

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For dessert ,some roast fig and caramelized pecan pie with classic vanilla sauce.

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Snack 1 – traditional local Arabic mezze – of course, as it’s Emirates you can order just the ones you like.

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Fresh banana smoothie…

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Snack 2 – Omeltte

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Overall the food was simply amazing and the flight attendants were always happy to prepare any dish the way you wanted it. It almost seemed more expected on their part that customers would be customizing the dishes…a huge change to the attitude from flight staff on most airlines.

Time for some rest…

No matter how luxurious or comfy the lie-flat bed is on a flight, I almost never sleep. However, that all changed on the Emirates A380. I’m not sure if it had to do with the really comfy mattress pad and duvet, the double pillows, or the enclosed suite (most likely), but I am happy to report that I slept for several hours.

When you are ready to get some rest the flight attendant is very happy to transform your seat into a great lie-flat bed. They suggest going to change into your PJs and then upon returning your bed is all ready. I got to see the mattress pad they used and was quite impressed with just how padded it was, not the normal thin layered one used on most flights. The duvet was top quality as well. The bed was extremely long, giving me more than enough room to stretch out. I found the width to be generous as well.

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The view with the suite doors closed…

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When I woke up it was time for a shower (sort of love writing that in reference to a flight). As mentioned in the first post, you are asked to select a shower time at the beginning of the flight. When it’s your turn the spa attendant comes to bring you to the shower. You are given 25 minutes in the “spa” but only five minutes of hot water. The shower is on a timer and can be stopped, allowing you to conserve your water and extend your time in the shower (ie. turn off the water when you are lathering up). The 5 minute rule is meant to ensure enough water for all first class guests, however on our flight there was only one family of three besides ourselves which may have allowed the crew to be a bit lenient. Without naming any names, someone I might have traveled with used their 5 minutes of water and then somehow got 5 minutes more from the spa staff!

In any case, I can’t tell you how nice and refreshing it was showering over Baghdad 14+ hours into the flight. It felt great!

Keep in mind, this is the first class bathroom as well. It was the largest in-flight bathroom I’ve ever seen and bigger than some of my hotel room bathrooms. TV with moving map included of course.

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When you’re done with your shower, the first class bar is transformed into a “blissful spa” area with aloe vera juices. A fruit platter is also waiting for you back at your seat.

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Just prior to landing you’ll be presented with a Fast Track pass for Dubai security and immigration clearance.

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To sum it up, believe the hype. The Emirates A380 First Class experience was fantastic. Amazing food, great service, comfy bed and private suite, and refreshing in-flight shower 38,000 feet up in the air. Comparing to my recent First Class Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific flights, I think I’d pick Emirates as my favorite. The experience is only enhanced by the services on the ground, and you’ll see in the next report why the First Class Lounge at the A380 Terminal  - Concourse A in Dubai is unlike any other lounge in the world…it spans the entire terminal!

Did you miss part one? Check it out here - Trip Report – Emirates A380 First Class LAX – Dubai (DXB) w/ Shower Spa Part 1

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Delta announced this morning even more new flights from their growing “global gateway” in Seattle. The new flights begin Dec. 20, 2014 and will include some interesting Saturday only flights:

  • Five daily flights to Phoenix
  • One daily seasonal flight to Palm Springs, Calif.
  • Saturday seasonal service to Tucson, Ariz.
  • Saturday seasonal service to Jackson Hole, Wyo.
  • One additional nonstop flight to Honolulu for a total of two daily flights
  • One new daily nonstop flight to Anchorage for a total of two daily flights in September and three daily flights during the summer

“As Seattle’s fastest-growing airline, we’ve doubled the number of flights we offer from a year ago to provide our customers more choice and flexibility when traveling from these key markets to the Pacific Northwest,” said Mike Medeiros, Delta’s vice president - Seattle. “This service will offer one-stop access for customers to the top international destinations while providing local travelers with more options during the winter months.”

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Delta & Alaska Airlines

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This is part three of a fifteen part trip report from my travels to the Maldives and Dubai. This picture report covers the first part of an Emirates A380 w/ shower spa trip report from LAX – Dubai (DXB). There were so many amenities on the flight besides the shower that I need two posts to cover everything…

Talk about waiting until the last minute…but I always say you find the best seats when you are extremely flexible and can hold out as long as possible. Here’s where being a risk taker benefits. I had reservations at the Conrad Hilton in the Maldives that were booked just prior to the HHonors devaluation at the amazing rate of 37.5K per night instead of the new rate of 95K per night. However, I had no flights to get me there even three days before the anticipated arrival. I was hoping for Emirates First Class to open up from New York, but as of the Friday evening before my Monday departure only business class was available for two seats on the JFK-DXB leg. However, the LAX-DXB flight had First open up and so I went ahead and pulled the trigger, booking with my Alaska Airlines miles (180,000 and $30 total, thank you Bank of America where churning is still acceptable). Unfortunately, there’s only one Alaska flight per day from the NY area (EWR-SEA-LAX) and it required an overnight layover in Seattle to get us to LAX, meaning I only ticketed the LAX-DXB-MLE legs. Instead, I booked a one-way 12,500 UA itinerary separately (in the end this trip was only 2,500 miles).

I was pretty psyched for my first Emirates First experience though, especially since it was on the A380 with an in-flight shower spa! Previously I had only flown Emirates in business – Emirates A380 Business – JFK-Dubai Trip Report. There were easier and available first connections available via Houston, Dallas, Toronto, Boston and Washington, but none of those locations would have given us the Emirates First A380 experience.

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The same one-way itinerary was pricing at $21,748.20 for the same exact flights…90,000 miles well worth it!

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As Emirates is still building their LAX lounge, there is no direct aircraft boarding and the Korean Air lounge is used instead - Trip Report – Korean Air First Class Lounge LAX – Maldives Trip Report Part 2. Note that complimentary chauffeur service is offered on both legs of the journey.

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There were three separate boarding areas – First, Business, and Economy, as well as two separate jet bridges (first and business/economy).

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Welcome to suite 2K – Dom and snacks waiting

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The suite has pop up compartments with skin products, a writing kit, and of course the mini-bar.

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We were immediately welcomed by several crew members – one offering drinks, one taking our coats, and others just coming by to say hello. Soon an Emirates bag was brought over to us…inside was an amenity kit, PJs, slippers, and socks.

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The leather amenity kit had an Art of Shaving razor, shaving cream, toothbrush, toothpaste, tissues, and a Bulgari men’s kit. The women’s kit had a female Bulgari kit and swapped the razor for a make-up mirror.  However, the bag is not leather like the mens…

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Pajama Bag – really comfy pants and v-neck shirt with Emirates embroidering.

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Besides champagne, Arabic tea and dates were offered…

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Next, we were presented with a pamphlet explaining the shower spa experience and listing each of the products. We were asked to select a time to reserve our shower spa. I had never showered in the air before so I asked for a recommendation. The flight attendant said two hours before landing would be nice and still allow time for a meal before landing. There are two showers on-board, but with only ourselves and two other passengers in First, there wasn’t much concern over selecting times. More details on the shower experience in the next post.

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Oh, and who doesn’t like automated window shades? All three of my windows could be controlled by buttons on the actual shades or via a controller by my seat. Each window had two shades, one that let it a little light and one that completely blacked them out.

My private suite had a 23” inch LCD screen but there was also a mini tablet screen and a separate remote (also with a screen). The tablet (which has been updated to HD and now looks like an iPad) could be used to browse the entertainment choices, view the moving map, view the multiple cameras, adjust the seat, shop, or simply as a remote for the main screen. In addition, you have a remote that also controls the main screen but also allows you to browse the entertainment choices, play games, display the moving map, send SMS, call other passengers on the flight, and more. You could essentially be watching a movie on the main screen, the cameras on the tablet, and the moving map on the remote all at the same time! There’s also the noise canceling headphones, dual USB inputs that allow for on-screen projection and personal media access, and a power adaptor. The ICE entertainment system itself is incredible – literally 100s of movies, 30+ new releases, live news, interesting documentaries and short programs, TV, music, even a series titled Ultimate Airport Dubai.

Three TVs at once…main one on the movie, tablet browsing what to watch next, and remote on the moving map. All three display the remaining time in flight.

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In-flight internet for a fee:

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The seat can also be controlled via four buttons on the armrest – one-touch dining, bed, and landing controls. One to close the doors of your suite as well…

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Multiple air vents in the suite – two above your seat and two near the windows.

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Emirates Night sky

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The First Class lounge – great liquor selection but it was empty since there was no one else really in First Class. Also stocked with a few sandwiches and snacks but you can order anything from the menu at any time.

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Instead we headed further back on the A380 top deck to the business lounge. It was happening with a bartender, multiple passengers chatting, and comfy lounge seating. Some were even ordering food to be brought to the lounge…pretty sweet! The flight attendant / bartender from Australia was very friendly and we had a good time with her and the other passengers.

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Up tomorrow – part two including the actual seat / bed, shower experience, and the food! Check it out here - Trip Report – Emirates A380 First Class LAX – Dubai (DXB) w/ Shower Spa Part 2

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On Tuesday, Delta applied for another new route from Seattle, one that of course is already served by Alaska Airlines. The new route application is for direct service from Seattle (SEA) to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico (SJD). However, this shouldn’t be much competition for Delta’s frenemy as the plan is to offer seasonal, Saturday-only service beginning on or about December 20, 2014. Delta plans to utilize 160-seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft, equipped with 16 first class, 18 economy comfort class, and 126 economy class seats.

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Delta & Alaska Airlines

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Something is potentially going on between Alaska and American Airlines but Alaska executives won’t say exactly what it is. During Alaska’s earnings call on Thursday, Andrew Harrison, vice president of planning and revenue management, said the two airlines are talking, which isn’t surprising given that Delta is engaged in an effort to bulk up its flying into Alaska’s Seattle hub and plans to compete with Alaska on a variety of key domestic routes. Conceivably, American could act as a white knight.  “We’re getting to know the new American management team,” Harrison said during the call. “I have met with their alliances folks, and we have started discussions about how we might work with the new American. It’s very exciting and we look forward to future things.”

Thanks Steve Lieb for the OK on sharing the summary above. Please check out the full two page story over at The Street. Also, see their other recent article, Delta Faces Questions on Seattle Hub Buildup.

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On December 20th, Alaska Airlines announced additional expansion plans at Delta’s Salt Lake City (SLC) hub, the latest in a tit-for-tat route expansion (though a lot more additions are coming from DL).  Alaska announced these new routes just days after Delta shared it latest in a series of route expansion plans from Seattle.

Alaska Airlines said starting June 16, it will begin flying nonstop from Salt Lake City to Boise (BOI) and Las Vegas (LAS) and beginning June 18, it will fly to San Francisco (SFO).

“Known for our award-winning service and low fares, we’re pleased to offer travelers more opportunities to experience Alaska Airlines’ unique service when they fly,” said Joe Sprague, vice president of marketing. “These additional flights will complement Alaska’s strong network on the West Coast.”

To promote the new routes, Alaska Airlines is offering its Mileage Plan members double miles on the new routes. Alaska Airlines is offering its Mileage Plan members double miles on the new routes, which count toward status in the carrier’s MVP, MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K elite-level programs. Alaska is quick to point out that the threshold for Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan members to earn elite-level MVP status is only 20,000 miles — 5,000 fewer miles than most other airline frequent flier programs.

In any case, there should definitely be some lower fares in Seattle and Salt Lake City as the battle wages on…

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Posted by Adam | 4 Comments

This is getting sort of crazy, it seems like there’s a new Delta announcement out of Seattle on a weekly basis announcing new flights on routes already served by Alaska Airlines. Here’s the latest press release from this morning:

Delta Air Lines will add new daily nonstop flights to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from San Jose International Airport and Juneau International Airport as well as an additional flight from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, all beginning May 29, 2014. The new service will provide customers with convenient connections to the airline’s growing international network from Seattle.

Delta’s new and expanded Seattle service includes:

  • Four new daily nonstop flights from San Jose, Calif.
  • One new daily summer seasonal flight from Juneau, Alaska – a new city to Delta’s network
  • One additional summer seasonal flight from Anchorage for a total of three daily nonstop flights

“The Pacific Northwest economy is one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., and a big part of why we’re adding domestic flights in support of our growing global gateway in Seattle,” said Mike Medeiros, Delta’s vice president – Seattle. “By next summer, we’ll offer more than 2,500 daily international seats as part of our 79 peakday departures to 25 destinations.”

Delta’s new service from San Jose will be operated by Delta Connection carrier SkyWest Airlines using 76-seat, two-class CRJ-900s. The airline’s new Juneau service as well as the additional Anchorage summer seasonal flight will be operated with a Boeing 737-800. Each aircraft is equipped with First Class and Economy Comfort seating as well as onboard Wi-Fi.

The airline recently announced expanded Seattle service to Anchorage, Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., San Diego, San Francisco and Vancouver to support its increasing international network that currently operates nonstop flights to Amsterdam, Beijing, Paris, Shanghai-Pudong and Tokyo. The airline will also operate new nonstop international service in 2014 to London-Heathrow in March as well as Hong Kong and Seoul in June, pending government approval.

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Talk about waiting until the last minute…but I always say you find the best seats when you are extremely flexible and can hold out as long as possible. I have reservations at the Conrad Hilton in the Maldives starting next week that were booked just prior to the HHonors devaluation at the amazing rate of 37.5K per night instead of the new rate of 95K per night. However, until today I still did not have any flights booked. I was hoping for Emirates First Class to open up from New York, but as of this evening only business class was available for two seats on the JFK-DXB leg. However, the LAX-DXB flight had First open up last night and so I went ahead and pulled the trigger today, booking with my Alaska Airlines miles (180,000 and $30 total). Unfortunately, there were no available domestic connections from NYC – LAX on Alaskan metal using miles at the standard award rate, so I’ll have to book the connections separately. I am pretty psyched for my first Emirates First experience though, especially since it will be on the A380 with the in-flight shower spa! Until now, I’ve only flown them in business – Emirates A380 Business – JFK-Dubai Trip Report. There were easier connections available via Houston, Dallas, Toronto, Boston and Washington, but none of those locations would have given us the Emirates First A380 experience.

Emirates Booking

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Posted by Adam | 31 Comments

Earlier this week in celebration of its 80th anniversary (NWA) of service and growing presence in Seattle, Delta Air Lines unveiled their Sprit of Seattle new Boeing 737-900ER aircraft at Boeing Field. The aircraft is “dedicated to the city of Seattle and the airline’s customers, employees and partners in the region.” Interestingly enough, Alaska Airlines has their own Spirit of Seattle decked in full Boeing colors.

Delta Spirit of Seattle

Alaska Airlines Spirit of Seattle

The unveiling came less than a week after Delta once again added new routes directly in competition with partner Alaska Airlines. As noted in the previous post – Delta & Alaska – Best Frenemies? The Battle for Seattle, it’s been quite an interesting year for these two airlines.  The future seemed so bright last October when Delta announced their huge Seattle build-up and expanded Alaska Airlines partnership. Delta planned to dramatically increase their international flight schedule from Seattle, while partner Alaska would be key in feeding the flights with traffic from their strong domestic hub. Both airlines also announced reciprocal frequent flier mileage earning and elite benefits. Adam Levine-Weinberg at The Motley Fool reports that Delta has clearly changed their strategy and decided to follow a new playbook:

Once again, Delta is targeting core markets for Alaska Air, in a bid to become more self-sufficient in Seattle. Delta’s latest expansion of service in Seattle involves two more routes for which Alaska already offers frequent service. Most importantly, in June Delta will add five daily round-trips between Seattle and Vancouver, which is a short 125-mile hop currently served by Alaska and Air Canada. Delta will also add a daily seasonal flight from Seattle to Fairbanks next summer, breaking Alaska’s monopoly on that route. These new flights come on top of recent announcements of new or expanded service from Seattle to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, Portland, and Anchorage. (Delta is also adding long-haul flights to London, Seoul, and Hong Kong next year.) All in all, by next summer, Delta Air Lines will have added 31 new daily roundtrip flights to its Seattle schedule compared to its 2013 schedule. This is pretty impressive considering Delta currently offers only 35 peak-day departures from Seattle and offered just 44 during the summer peak season. Delta thus plans to grow its presence in Seattle by around 70% in the span of just a year. This will still leave it at just a fraction of Alaska Air’s size in the Seattle area, but as a much more serious competitor.

It’s also being reported that loyal Alaskan fliers have created their own Facebook support group to show their allegiance to the “true local carrier” and send the “carpetbagger from the east back home”. They also note Delta’s use of smaller CRJ and ERJ aircraft on several of the routes where Alaska currently utilizes Boeing 737 aircraft.

Update – Alaska has just announced an expansion from Delta’s hub at Salt Lake City (SLC)! From NYCAviation -

After just eight months of serving the Salt Lake City market from their home base of Seattle (SEA), Alaska Airlines Group has announced an expansion of their service from SLC to four west coast destinations. In June 2014, daily flights will commence to Portland (PDX), San Jose (SJC), San Diego (SAN), and Los Angeles (LAX). An additional flight to Seattle (SEA) is also being added, bringing the total number to three each day. Booking for these flights will be available beginning on December 10. The airline is commemorating this new service expansion by rewarding its Mileage Plan members with double mileage accrual on these selected routes. Alaska Airlines is known to have a modest status-level threshold relative to its competitors in the industry, so this is especially good news for their frequent fliers. To benefit from the promotion, membership must be effective by June 15, 2014. would be difficult not to notice the location of Alaska’s choice for service expansion and the statement that it presents to their codeshare partner, Delta Air Lines.

Posted by Adam | 11 Comments

What a difference a year makes! The future seemed so bright last October when Delta announced their huge Seattle build-up and expanded Alaska Airlines partnership. Delta planned to dramatically increase their international flight schedule from Seattle, while partner Alaska would be key in feeding the flights with traffic from their strong domestic hub. Both airlines also announced reciprocal frequent flier mileage earning and elite benefits.

Fast forward to last week’s earnings call when Delta CEO, Richard Anderson, announced “we are building Seattle as a West Coast gateway to Asia & Europe” and that by mid-2014 Delta plans to fly to nine international destinations from Seattle including Amsterdam, Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Osaka, Paris, Seoul, Shanghai, and Tokyo. Delta also reiterated their plans to grow their own domestic feed, taking on some of Alaska’s core routes as they continue to build up the hub:

Delta said this month it will add six daily Seattle-San Francisco flights starting in March, with a seventh flight to be added in June. It will add two daily Seattle-Las Vegas flights in January, with two more in April, bringing the total to five. It will add two daily Seattle-Los Angeles flights in June, bringing the total to seven. Delta’s planned new routes target critically important routes for Alaska, which already has 12 daily Seattle-Los Angeles routes, eight daily Seattle-San Francisco routes and nine daily Seattle-Las Vegas routes.

Adding fuel to the friendship fallout, The Street reported that:

Two weeks ago, Delta Ground Services said it will discontinue agreements to provide ground service for Alaska at 13 stations, six cargo offices and various de-icing locations, a move first reported by AirlineReporter.com.”Delta notified us last Friday that it has elected to discontinue these service agreements with Alaska Airlines effective March 31, 2014.” “We have been considering a change … for some time now. (This) simply speeds up the transition we’d been planning.”

To promote the new routes, Delta announced it would offer double miles on the new domestic Seattle flights through Oct. 31, 2014, while Alaska responded with double elite qualifying miles between Seattle and five California destinations, plus Las Vegas, through May 31, 2014. “With 62 flights a day between California and Seattle, earning miles and elite status in our award-winning mileage plan is easier and faster with Alaska Airlines than any other carrier,” said Caroline Boren, managing director of loyalty marketing and customer advocacy, in a prepared statement.

Check out the full frenemy situation over at The Street.

Alaska & Delta

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