The Top 5 New Alaska Airlines Routes For 2021

Alaska Airlines has long maintained an all-narrowbody fleet and does not have any plans to extend into long-haul flying. However, just because an airline only operates narrowbodies, it does not mean that the carrier has nothing interesting up its sleeve. Heading into 2021, Alaska Airlines has plenty of new routes planned. Here are some of the more interesting ones.

Alaska Airlines, Capacity, Flights Cut
Alaska Airlines has new routes planned this year. Photo: Getty Images

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5. Seattle to Cincinnati

In March of 2020, Alaska Airlines announced a new daily nonstop service between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) from August 18th of the year. Just a few weeks later, however, it became clear that Alaska would be delaying the route. Now, Alaska will be starting the route from May 20th using a Boeing 737-800.

When Alaska Airlines announced the route last year, it stated that the motivation behind the route was from corporate clients and the airline’s loyal fliers. Cincinnati thus was supposed to be the 93rd nonstop destination Alaska served from Seattle, and it would finally connect “two dynamic regions, each with thriving technology and business centers.”

Alaska Seattle
Seattle will finally get a nonstop connection to Cincinnati on Alaska metal. Photo: Alaska Airlines

If you think back several years, you will also remember that Cincinnati used to be a massive point in the US air travel map. Before merging with Northwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines operated a sizable hub in the city. After the merger, Delta de-hubbed Cincinnati in favor of the larger Detroit hub, which Northwest Airlines also used as a hub for flights to Asia. Since losing major Delta service, the airport has worked to get new flights from mostly low-cost carriers and some full-service carriers, such as Alaska Airlines.

Delta considers Cincinnati a focus city, and you can still hop some connections on Delta metal from Cincinnati. This route is now more feasible for Alaska, given that Delta no longer has that massive presence in Cincinnati, though it is still well-known in the area. Though, Cincinnati’s growing economic might and the headquarters of several major companies, including Procter & Gamble, definitely led Alaska to jump in on the route.

4. San Diego to New York-JFK

Out of San Diego International Airport (SAN), Alaska will be flying daily nonstop to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) from April 4th, 2021.

What is interesting to note about this route is that Alaska will face competition. Alaska’s one daily flight will compete with partner American’s two daily nonstops, JetBlue’s three, and Delta’s three. JetBlue, in fact, even flies its Mint business class product between the two cities.

There are a few reasons for Alaska Airlines to jump in on this route. As a mostly West Coast carrier, the carrier has a strikingly small position in San Diego in terms of market share.

Alaska and American
Alaska Airlines will, in a sense, be “competing” with American Airlines on this route. Photo: Getty Images

This route will be less about connections and more about Alaska Airlines holding its own with origin and destination nonstop demand. While Alaska can offer some connections out of San Diego, there are many other options for New York passengers to get to the West Coast without flying all the way to the southern end of California and connecting northwards. Not to mention, Alaska does not have a hub at JFK.

Alaska partner American Airlines, however, does have a sizable presence out of New York-JFK. Still, Alaska’s flight coincides very similarly in times with one of American’s on the route, so in terms of connecting feed to American’s network, AA’s flight is better than Alaska’s.

Alaska Airlines has made New York-JFK work, and it will likely be successful on this route. But, the competition will be intense, and Alaska will be relying on its brand name and presence in California.

3. Anchorage to Las Vegas

In mid-December, Alaska Airlines announced it would be enhancing its Anchorage position with more “sun and fun” destinations. This included year-round service four times a week between Anchorage and Las Vegas.

In many ways, this flight from Anchorage is a natural one for Alaska Airlines, considering the times. Firstly, this route will be entirely based on leisure travelers, which are the bulk of people who are stepping onboard aircraft these days. The route will also cement Alaska’s position in Anchorage as the leading carrier to and from the state of Alaska.

Alaska Airlines, Capacity, Flights Cut
Alaska Airlines is showing a little love to its namesake state. Photo: Getty Images

Anchorage is the largest city in the state of Alaska, and, unsurprisingly, Alaska Airlines is the largest carrier out of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC).

Like some of the others on the list, the route will rely almost entirely on origin and destination passengers. Alaska Airlines does not have a hub in Las Vegas from which to offer onward connections. In Anchorage, the only connecting passengers stepping onboard this flight will be coming from throughout smaller communities in Alaska. However, there are not that many passengers to make the route work solely from connections.

2. San Jose to Palm Springs

Alaska Airlines has contracted with SkyWest to fly from Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) to Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC). SkyWest will start this route from February 11th with double-daily Embraer E175 service. This route was previously expected to start from December, but Alaska pushed the start date to February.

Palm Springs has seen an explosion of air service in the last few months. Southwest Airlines arrived at the airport, Delta added a new regional flight, and Alaska also added additional flights out of Palm Springs.

Alaska Airlines Embraer E175
The Embraer is a good choice for this short flight. Photo: Getty Images

This is where Alaska is testing its strength in California. Palm Springs does get some more seasonal demand, which is why the airline will be cutting this service down to a single daily service in the summer. Much like some of the earlier routes, Alaska is seriously targeting origin and destination passengers. These routes can be some of the most difficult to run, but an E175 is not terribly difficult to fill.

1. Anchorage to Denver

Anchorage has always been a very interesting hub for Alaska Airlines. It is not a massive tourist destination like San Diego or Los Angeles are. However, the Alaska legacy runs deep in the city.

Denver is, again, not a big hub for Alaska Airlines, nor for an Alaska partner. So, for this route to work, Alaska is counting on a significant population of origin and destination demand. There is precedent for a route like this to work. For example, Alaska Airlines is extending its seasonal service to Phoenix to year-round daily service, though Phoenix is also a massive American Airlines hub.

Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines has some big plans ahead of joining the oneworld alliance. Photo: Getty Images

Anchorage to Denver is the capstone of the Alaska strategy in 2021: fly people where they want to go with the fewest stops. The airline has a strong brand presence in most of these markets (California, Alaska, and Washington), which should set the airline up to do well. It is still a bit of a risk, but Alaska’s team is fantastic at planning out its routes, so this one may end up being a sleeper hit.

Plus, given how the airline will soon be joining the oneworld alliance, expect more routes from the airline that will test the bounds of its brand loyalty and bring more passengers to the Alaska fold.

Which of these five routes are you most waiting for? Let us know in the comments!