Source: USA TODAY
Delta Air Lines has announced yet another round of expansion at Seattle, a move that seems certain to stoke speculation about a growing turf war with Seattle-based Alaska Airlines.
Delta says it will launch nonstop routes to both San Jose, Calif., and Juneau, Alaska. Delta also will add one additional summer flight between Seattle and Anchorage, giving the carrier three nonstop summertime flights on that route.The new routes will begin May 29.
Delta’s San Jose service will be operated by Delta Connection carrier SkyWest on 76-seat CRJ-900 regional jets. The Juneau flight and the additional Anchorage flight will be flown on Boeing 737-800 jets.
“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,” Mike Medeiros, Delta’s VP – Seattle, says in a statement. “By next summer, we’ll offer more than 2,500 daily international seats as part of our 79 peakday departures to 25 destinations.”
Delta and Alaska Air remain partners, codesharing on many flights and offering reciprocal frequent-flier benefits to the carriers’ customers.
However, Delta’s is in the midst of a major expansion in Seattle, adding dozens of flights that now compete directly with Alaska Air at its headquarters and main hub.
Delta’s recently added or expanded routes from Seattle include Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland (Ore.), San Diego, San Francisco and Vancouver.
Delta says it’s adding routes and increasing frequencies in Seattle “to support its increasing international network that currently operates nonstop flights to Amsterdam, Beijing, Paris, Shanghai-Pudong and Tokyo.” Delta also is slated to begin new international routes from Seattle to London Heathrow and Hong Kong in 2014.
Indeed, it was Delta’s partnership with Alaska that first helped Delta expand its international presence in Seattle. With no hub of its own there, Delta can lean on its codeshare pact with Alaska Air to help fill its overseas flights with passengers connecting from Alaska Air’s domestic routes.
Now, however, many of Delta’s new domestic routes from Seattle not only go head-to-head with partner Alaska, but they come on some of Alaska’s most important routes from Seattle – routes such as Los Angeles, Portland, San Diego and Fairbanks.
In Juneau, Alaska Airlines is the only big airline flying to the airport serving Alaska’s state capital. Underscoring the increasing competition between Delta and Alaska Air, the Juneau Empire newspaper notes Alaska Air “has for years had a monopoly on the Seattle-Juneau route.”
When asked if the new competition might strain the airlines’ relationship, Alaska Air spokeswoman Bobbie Eagan tells the Empire: “When it makes sense, we compete; in other places, we have a partnership.”
But Eagen also reminded The Associated Press that Alaska Airlines has flown nonstop to Juneau for “decades.”
“Oftentimes, we were the only airline that could access the state’s capital when other airlines canceled their flights,” she tells AP. “We get Alaska, and we’re unique in their respect.”
For fliers, the blow-up in competition has sparked a frequent-flier battle between the airlines – both Delta and Alaska are offering generous double-mile promos and faster elite-status qualification on many flights from Seattle. And Alaska Air recently announced its own expansion in Salt Lake City, a hub for Delta. The move would seem to be apparent retaliation for Delta’s bold moves on Alaska Air’s home turf.
The escalating competition between the Delta and Alaska Air has led some to call the partners “frenemies.”
For now, the carriers remain partners. However, Alaska Air also has a partnership with American Airlines, and some industry observers are increasingly wondering whether Delta’s stepped up presence in Seattle could push Alaska Air to drop its pact with Delta and move closer to American.
Stay tuned …