Alaska to use Virgin A320s to launch single-aisle expansion.
Alaska Airlines will use the A320-family aircraft it inherited when it merged with Virgin America to launch the largest single-market expansion in the carrier’s storied history.Alaska has targeted the San Francisco Bay Area, specifically San Francisco International and Mineta San Jose International airports, to roll out nonstop service on a slew of new routes, many of them transcontinental or near-transcon flights. It can do this because A320s have the “legs” (range) to fly the transcontinental trips non-stop.Starting in late August, and wrapping up in mid-December, Alaska will start flying from San Francisco to Philadelphia, New Orleans, Nashville, Indianapolis, Raleigh/Durham, Baltimore/Washington and Kona, Hawaii.It is set to launch Embraer E175 regional jet flights from SFO to Albuquerque and Kansas City.Out of San Jose, there will be daily non-stop service to Austin and Tucson—as well as four daily non-stops to Los Angeles International.The number of daily roundtrips is critical here. Business travelers want a minimum of three daily non-stops on a given route, the better to fashion flexible schedules. Daily services are often insufficient and this low-frequency strategy could mitigate the competitive impact Alaska’s entry into a number of these markets may have.The San Francisco Bay Area expansion dovetails nicely with Virgin America’s former SFO focus. It also puts Virgin’s A320s to work in a West Coast market other than Seattle/Tacoma. Sea-Tac is Alaska’s home airport and the new West Coast hub for Delta Air Lines.