In a radical shake up of the way it deploys aircraft, Alaska Airlines is planning on ditching almost all of its New York operations and closing its base by September.
The demise of the Virgin America brand has seen a sharp drop in customers, who have fled to jetBlue’s Mint service mainly, but also American for trans-continental services. However Alaska has never had much interest in maintaining the highly competitive route, accepting that in effect SFO & LAX to JFK & EWR are simply too competitive without Virgin America’s edge.
Over 100 pilots are being asked to redeploy to California within a month, along with almost all aircraft. Alaska may continue with just a daily flight in each direction.
Alaska feels that it’s under siege in the western US, with Southwest and United pushing harder into destinations and cities that Alaska once held almost as a monopoly. United’s presence at SFO is 40,000 domestic seats per day – four times that of the combined Alaska/Virgin operation.
The airline plans on devoting its newly re-assigned aircraft and pilots to the west coast, Hawaii and reinforcing its routes and taking up new opportunities.