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The Battle for Seattle
Alaska Airlines has shunned big alliances and partnered instead with carriers who wanted access to its Seattle-Tacoma hub. One partner, Delta Air Lines, has now turned on Alaska. Eager to trim the Tokyo-based Asia hub it inherited in the Northwest Airlines merger, Delta is refocusing Pacific Rim operations at Sea-Tac. Initially, Alaska was a partner in the build-up. But while retaining a code-share deal, Delta and Alaska are now "fierce competitors" and engaged in one of the first hub wars we've seen in many years. Here is how we're covering it. The latest item is on top, so read from the bottom up for best effect.
12/31/14 -- THE BATTLE OVER DELTA'S SEATTLE-TOKYO/HANEDA ROUTE
The Wall Street Journal would have you believe that the Japanese government's international expansion at Tokyo's close-in Haneda Airport is a rip-roaring success. And it is--if you take the macro view. But routes between the United States and Haneda have been a financial failure, partially because of weak U.S.-Japan traffic and partially because U.S. carriers were assigned dreadful Haneda take-off and landing times. American dumped its New York/Kennedy-Haneda route in 2013. (The Transportation Department reassigned the slots to United, which now operates a San Francisco-Haneda route.) Delta's initial attempt to fly between its Detroit/Metro hub and Haneda failed, too, and it moved flights to Seattle, where it is building an international hub. That hasn't worked, either, and Delta has essentially abandoned the route, running just a few flights a month in an attempt to circumvent DOT use-it-or-lose-it rules. Delta's gambit has elicited the ire of competitors, who want the DOT to seize the route and reassign it. American wants to operate a Los Angeles-Haneda route (without explaining how that would work better than its JFK run). Hawaiian, which flies from Honolulu to Haneda, is also unhappy with Delta's move. American claims Delta is trying to bury the Haneda route to protect its hub at Tokyo's Narita Airport. The problem with American's logic? Delta is cutting back at Narita and will only offer five intra-Asia routes this year, down from a dozen in 2009. The DOT is looking into all the claims and could rule soon. Stay tuned.
11/20/14 -- DELTA REALLY, REALLY WANTS A SEA-TAC HUB
Delta Air Lines originally started building its flight schedule from Seattle-Tacoma more than two years ago but claimed it wasn't horning in on Alaska Airlines' home turf. Delta adamantly insisted It was only interested in shifting some Asia business from its Tokyo/Narita hub. There has been plenty of evidence to the contrary--see the chronology below--and now there can hardly be any doubt that Delta is interested in obliterating Alaska at Sea-Tac. This week it announced more than a dozen more flights, all of them operated by its Delta Connection commuter carriers. Beginning May 4, there'll be four daily flights to both Boise and Sacramento. A month later, there'll be five daily flights to Denver. And as if to underline Delta's interest in disrupting Alaska Air, May 15 marks the launch of seasonal daily flights to both Ketchikan and Sitka. Delta says it operates 80 daily flights from Seattle and expects that number will increase to 93 next month. By next summer, it'll be 120 flights a day.
09/25/14 -- DELTA YIELDS ON THE HANEDA ROUTE
Delta Air Lines, which has made many of its transatlantic routes seasonal, is pulling down winter service on its Seattle-Tokyo/Haneda route, too. That route, moved from its Detroit hub just last year, won't operate between October and March. Although that won't matter much in the war with Alaska Airlines for Sea-Tac supremacy, it's sure to infuriate other carriers. In fact, they may demand Delta be stripped of the route for "dormancy," a pre-deregulation stricture that still applies on routes between places such as Japan, where service remains strictly regulated.
05/29/14 -- THE BATTLE HEATS UP AGAIN
The long-running war between Seattle-Tacoma incumbent Alaska Airlines and interloper Delta Airlines is heating up again. Delta this week announced service to five more cities from Sea-Tac. Effective November 3, there'll be four daily regional-jet flights to Spokane and two daily RJ runs to Calgary. On December 20, Delta launches a daily flight to Kahului, Maui, using a Boeing 757. The same day, it begins seasonal regional-jet flights to Bozeman, Montana and a weekly flight to Puerto Vallarta using Airbus A319s. The new flights buttress Delta's existing Sea-Tac network of 50 daily departures to 18 cities. Within hours, Alaska Airlines responded by announcing an 11 percent increase in service from Sea-Tac, boosting its network to 280 flights from the current 253. Besides some previously announced new routes, Alaska said it would add 27 new roundtrips on existing routes, including Boston, Chicago/O'Hare, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon.
04/10/14 -- ALASKA REMAKES SEA-TAC NETWORK
In what's becoming a long, drawn-out battle for control of Seattle-Tacoma, Alaska Airlines is juggling its hometown network. New are daily Boeing 737 flights to Albuquerque (beginning September 18) and a new transcon route, this one to Baltimore-Washington. It launches on September 2. But Alaska is also dropping three other routes: Los Angeles-San Jose; Portland-Long Beach; and Atlanta-Portland. The airline previously said that it would also drop flights between Anchorage and Denver. The LAX-San Jose route has already ended. The other routes end during the summer.
04/07/14 -- DELTA CUTS INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS FARES
Delta Air Lines is desperate to build an international hub at Seattle-Tacoma and it's beating on frenemy Alaska Airlines in the process. It is also offering a big business-class sale on those international flights for summer and early fall travel. Sample prices: London, Amsterdam or Paris for $2,999 roundtrip; Seoul for $2,897; and Beijing for $3,395. Valid travel dates vary by destination, but all fares require a 10-day minimum stay. Tickets must be booked by April 10, but that deadline may be extended. Information: the Seattle Flights page.
04/07/14 -- TWO AIRLINES, DOUBLE MILES
The Alaska Airlines MileagePlan is running a double-miles promo on many routes from Seattle. Some routes will offer double miles between June 1 and December 31 and others between June 1 and September 1. For full details and registration, surf here and here. Delta Air Lines has, of course, matched and is offering double SkyMiles on its Seattle routes.
03/27/14 -- NOW WE'RE COLLATERAL DAMAGE
Seattle-based Alaska Airlines and global interloper Delta Air Lines have been skirmishing at Sea-Tac Airport for years even though the two carriers continue to be code-share and frequent flyer program partners. At least until this week, the battle for Seattle has benefited flyers with more flights, new services, lower fares and mileage bonuses. But now we're beginning to look like collateral damage as the carriers up their attacks on each other. Last weekend, for example, Alaska Air pulled its code off Delta flights to four cities from Delta's Salt Lake City hub. Delta is retaliating in June by taking its code off Alaska Air flights from Seattle to nine U.S. and Canadian cities. And this week the carriers slashed benefits for their elite flyers who travel on the other airline. Effective on flights after April 30, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan elites who fly Delta lose baggage-fee waivers, priority boarding, access to express security lanes and the 50 percent discount on Delta Economy Comfort upgrades. Delta elites who fly Alaska Air after April 30 will lose bag-fee waivers and priority security access, too. For more specifics, Alaska Airlines flyers should click here and Delta elites should click here.
03/26/14 -- ALASKA DISSES DELTA'S NEW LONDON FLIGHT
The increasingly nasty fight between Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines for control of Seattle has a new front. On Saturday (March 29), Delta Air Lines launches flights from Seattle-Tacoma to London, so Alaska has reacted by cutting a deal with British Airways. If you register and travel on BA's Seattle-London nonstop by June 15, you will receive double Mileage Plan miles on most published fares.
03/06/14 -- ALASKA AIRLINES TOSSED FROM DELTA.COM
Alaska Airlines is in a big battle with its frenemy Delta Air Lines at its hometown hub of Seattle-Tacoma. The latest shot has been fired by Delta: Although you can still get SkyMiles for Alaska Airlines flights, you no longer can book Alaska Air tickets on Delta.com.
02/21/14 -- THE WAR FOR EMERALD CITY SUPREMACY
Delta Air Lines and hometown incumbent Alaska Airlines continue to battle for Emerald City supremacy. Effective December 20, Delta will add five daily flights to Phoenix and seasonal flights to Palm Springs, Tucson and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Alaska says it'll add routes to New Orleans and Tampa in June. And in September, it'll begin flying into Delta's Detroit/Metro hub.
12/26/13 -- AN OLD-FASHIONED HUB WAR
Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines are battling big time now that Alaska Air has responded to Delta's Seattle-Tacoma incursion with new flights at Salt Lake City. And there's no sign either carrier is ready to surrender. Alaska announced last week that it will add still more flights at Delta's Salt Lake hub. Alaska will add three new nonstop destinations--Boise, Las Vegas and San Francisco--starting on June 16. Meanwhile, Delta adds still more service at Alaska Air's Sea-Tac hub. The new destinations--Vancouver and Fairbanks--begin on May 29 and June 5, respectively.
12/12/13 -- ALASKA HITS DELTA AT SALT LAKE CITY
Delta Air Lines has been invading the Seattle-Tacoma hub of Alaska Airlines for nearly three years and Alaska Air has basically absorbed the blows from its sometimes marketing partner. But apparently Alaska has had enough. It's now striking back at Delta's Salt Lake City hub. Effective next June, Alaska will launch flights to Salt Lake City from Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and Portland, Oregon. It's also adding a third daily flight between Sea-Tac and Salt Lake City, a route Alaska initially launched in collaboration with Delta in April.
11/14/13 -- DELTA KEEPS GROWING AT SEA-TAC
Delta Air Lines had the least-contentious merger, it makes the most money and now it's taking on the airport status quo from coast to coast. At Seattle-Tacoma, for example, where Delta has been challenging its code-share partner Alaska Airlines for months, there are even more new routes coming. Delta will add four daily flights to San Diego and four daily flights to Portland, Oregon. Flights will run with 76-seat jets flown by Delta Connection partner SkyWest.
10/25/13 -- ALASKA FIGHTS WITH TACTICS, NOT EMOTION
Alaska Airlines chief executive Brad Tilden says his carrier will respond to Delta Air Lines' attacks at Alaska's Seattle-Tacoma hub with tactics, not emotion. My colleague Steve Wilhelm of the Puget Sound Business Journal has the details here.
10/24/13 -- DELTA WALKS ON MEMPHIS, BUILDS SEA-TAC
Delta Air Lines has put the final stake in the heart of the Memphis hub that it inherited in the 2008 merger with Northwest Airlines. Memphis once had 240 flights a day from Northwest, but Delta has been downsizing for years. After more trims earlier this year, Delta's MEM schedule stood at just 64 daily flights. But even that is too many for Delta. It announced this week that Memphis will be cut to 40 daily flights by December 3. The cuts mean the end of nonstops to Nashville; Milwaukee; Columbus; and Louisville, Kentucky.
Where is Delta going instead? Seattle-Tacoma, as it continues to invade the hub of its supposed partner Alaska Airlines. "We [are] building Seattle-Tacoma as a West Coast gateway to Asia," Delta chief executive Richard Anderson explained this week. By next year, Delta will fly from Sea-Tac to nine international destinations, including six in Asia (Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Osaka and Tokyo) and three in Europe (London, Paris and Amsterdam). Delta has also upgraded service to Sea-Tac from its New York/JFK hub and is adding West Coast feed from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Much of the Sea-Tac service has been "out-of-the-box profitable," explained Delta executive vice president Glen Hauenstein. "We're very pleased with our Seattle expansion."
10/23/13 -- ALASKA AND DELTA FIGHT WITH MILES, TOO
Delta Air Lines has bulked up in the California Corridor and is building a mini-hub at Seattle-Tacoma. The problem with that? Sea-Tac is the home of Delta's titular partner, Alaska Airlines, and Alaska is already a big player in the California Corridor. The still-claiming-to-be-friends are now battling on the mileage front, too. Delta is offering double SkyMiles on three Sea-Tac routes--to/from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas--if you book flights by December 31 and fly by October 31, 2014. (You must register, of course.) Alaska has responded with an offer of double elite-qualifying Mileage Plan credits on six runs from Sea-Tac: to/from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Rosa. This promotion lasts until May 31 when you register in advance. A word of warning: The airline frenemies still code-share on some routes and the carriers are not offering the bonuses on each other's metal.
10/3/13 -- DELTA ADDS AT SEA-TAC AGAIN
Delta Air Lines continues to grow its mini-hub at Seattle-Tacoma airport. After it added a raft of international service and upgraded its transcontinental flights, Delta is now bulking up on the West Coast. Effective March 29, there'll be six daily flights between Seattle and San Francisco. The airline is also adding more service to both Los Angeles and Las Vegas runs. The newly announced flights will be served with two-class EMB-175 regional jets.
10/1/13 -- CALL THEM 'FIERCE COMPETITORS'
If you thought the media was ginning up a phony war in Seattle-Tacoma between incumbent Alaska Airlines and its putative partner Delta Air Lines, consider what Mike Medeiros has to say. He's Delta's vice president for Seattle and he calls the two airlines "fierce competitors." Steve Wilhelm of the Puget Sound Business Journal has the details here.
8/22/13 -- DELTA ADDS AND SUBTRACTS AT SEATTLE
Delta Air Lines has been furiously adding routes and service to its mini-hub at Sea-Tac. Among other recent moves, it announced Seattle-London/Heathrow flights, added a Los Angeles route, upgraded in-flight service on runs to its New York/Kennedy hub and began adding flights to Asia. But all isn't copacetic, especially on those Asia runs. Delta proudly announced this week that it would add nonstops next year from Sea-Tac to Hong Kong and Seoul. What it didn't say: Some existing Asia runs are being dropped or slashed. Gone will be flights to Osaka. Reduced will be flights to Shanghai (down to five weekly from daily) and Tokyo/Haneda, which will slide to four weekly from its current daily frequency. The Seoul flight launches June 2 using Boeing 767-300s. The Hong Kong flight begins June 16 using Airbus A330-200s.
7/25/13 -- DELTA WILL FLY SEATTLE-LONDON
Hot on the heels of a deal to acquire 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic, Delta Air Lines is making another move to bulk up at London/Heathrow. Beginning March 29, Delta will launch daily flights from Seattle/Tacoma, an airport where it has also been building its presence. From Seattle, Delta already flies to five airports in Asia (Tokyo/Narita, Tokyo/Haneda, Shanghai, Beijing and Osaka) as well as Paris, Amsterdam and New York/Kennedy. It also has a code-share and frequent flyer partnership with Alaska Airlines, the major player at Sea/Tac.
1/10/13 -- DELTA LAUNCHING SEA-LAX FLIGHTS
Delta Air Lines will launch three daily flights from Los Angeles to Seattle, which the carrier is building as an Asian gateway. Two-class CRJ900 flights begin on April 8.
11/8/12 -- DELTA UPGRADES SEATTLE-NEW YORK SERVICE
Delta Air Lines will upgrade its Transcontinental Triangle flights between New York/Kennedy, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It will also upgrade JFK-Seattle flights, which link to Delta's recently announced Asia service from Sea-Tac. Delta says that the BusinessElite cabins on its transcon Boeing 757s and 767s will be outfitted with flat beds that measure 20 or 21 inches wide and 79 inches long. There will be 26 seats configured 1-2-1 on the Boeing 767s and 16 seats configured 2-2 on the Boeing 757s. The Economy Comfort section (29 seats on 767s and 44 seats on 757s) will offer 35 inches of seat pitch. The retrofits will be ready in March. By May, Delta says that the transcon flights will move out of the airline's outdated, overcrowded Terminal 2/3 complex at JFK and into new digs in Terminal 4. The Terminal 4 operation will have its own Sky Club.
11/1/12 -- STILL COZY AT SEA-TAC
Alaska Airlines dominates Seattle-Tacoma and it and Delta Air Lines have been playing footsie in Seattle for years. The cooperation has increased dramatically lately, especially with Alaska and Delta's decision to work together on Delta's new routes to Asia from Seattle. Now the logical next step: Alaska Airlines says it will launch twice-daily flights between Sea-Tac and Delta's hub in Salt Lake City. The new route begins next April.
10/11/12 -- DELTA BUILDS ASIA SERVICE IN SEATTLE
Alaska Airlines isn't a partner in the SkyTeam Alliance, but it and SkyTeam founder Delta Air Lines have an extensive code-share arrangement at Seattle-Tacoma, Alaska's hometown hub. Delta will need to lean on that code-share as it mounts an aggressive Asia expansion from Sea-Tac next year. Delta hopes to add daily service to both Shanghai and Tokyo/Haneda. Assuming government approval, Haneda flights begin on March 30 and the Shanghai flights launch on June 17. Delta will use Boeing 767-300ERs on the routes. Delta already flies from Sea-Tac to Tokyo/Narita and Beijing. To support the new service, Delta says it will add flights between Sea-Tac and its New York/Kennedy hub. Delta's complete announcement is here.
3/1/12 -- DELTA TAKES AIR FRANCE'S SEATTLE ROUTE
Air France is dumping three U.S. routes (Newark, Orlando and Seattle) to Paris, although Delta Air Lines is taking over the Seattle-Paris service later this month. The two airlines launched the Seattle-Paris run jointly in 2007 with Air France equipment. Now Delta will run the flight with its own aircraft.
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