Could Alaska Airlines Ever Fly Widebody Aircraft?

At the moment, Alaska Airlines flies a mix of Airbus, Boeing, Embraer and Dash 8 aircraft. It has already seen a natural progression in expanding on its regional operations across North America. However, could it be enticed to take on widebodies and fulfill long haul expansions?

Alaska Airlines Aircraft
Since Alaska Airlines mainly operates short to medium-range flights, it doesn’t hold any widebody aircraft in its fleet. Photo: Getty

Time for expansion?

Currently, the Seattle-based carrier travels south as far as Costa Rica, passing its serviced destinations in Mexico and Cuba. If it considers flying further away from its base, it would need the right aircraft to achieve it.

With the airline based alongside the Pacific coast, it could become a specialist in services across the ocean. Currently, it does reach as far as the US state of Hawaii. However, with widebody aircraft, it could serve passengers to islands that are even further away.

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Flights to other Polynesian nations such as American Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu could be considered. After testing out the waters, the airline could expand and implement routes to lands across the Pacific. Services to Japan, Fiji, and China would fit would require new planes.

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Suitable solutions

Widebodies such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner could be a natural match for growth. The plane has a capacity of 210 to 250 seats. Additionally, it has a range of about 15,000 km, which is just over 16 hours of flight time.

LOT Boeing 787
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner could be the perfect answer for Alaska to get long haul operations going. Photo: Getty Images

Alternatively, it could enhance its relationship with Airbus by taking on the Airbus A350. This has a higher capacity with 314 seats. It also holds a very similar range of 15,000 km. 

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Other widebodies such as the Boeing 747, 777, and Airbus A380 could also assist the airline on its cross-continental prospects.

Some narrowbodies such as the Airbus A321XLR could fit well on long haul routes. This plane has a range of 4,700 nautical miles.

This is 15 percent more than its sibling, the A321LR. However, to fulfill flights to countries all the way across the Pacific, widebodies may be the more suitable choice.

A321XLR
The XLR hopes to contend with Boeing’s MAX to offer long-distance services on narrowbody units. Photo: Airbus

Is it a priority?

Previously, The Street reported that Alaska CEO Brad Tilden feels that the strategy of deploying the firm’s capacity in domestic markets while working with its international partners is going well.

However, the firm could eventually be tempted to follow further on its developments and expand to longer-distance services. Nonetheless, with the aviation industry going through a sensitive time, Alaska may want to wait a little longer before making the step.

Various regional airlines have either collapsed or are struggling financially after attempting to expand into long haul routes. The underestimated costs and the pressure of competition often proves to be too much to handle.

Therefore, Alaska would want to make sure that it makes the move only when the time is right.

Simple Flying reached out to Alaska Airlines for comment on its thoughts on operating widebody aircraft but did not hear back before publication. We will update the article with any further announcements.

What are your thoughts on the prospect of Alaska operating widebody planes? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

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IJBos

I little bit of a strange and unlikely idea! Alaska has a VERY strong following on domestic routes, particularly out of it’s Pacific Northwest hubs in Seattle and Portland. Alaska would not want to do do anything to change it’s great reputation. Long haul, transpacific service would be difficult for Alaska to pull off as it would not have the brand loyalty it has on shorter routes from the west coast.

Robert

I’d fly with them on a wide-bodied overseas for sure. Loyal customer here from rural Alaska. Am (plus my paid in-cabin pet) a regular 50k plus miles flyer each year. It would be cool if they got a 787.

Chuck

Nothing to be gained via wide body equipment. Alaska has no major brand recognition in Asia. Should the economy contract, it would be costly to retreat from an area just developed.
A greater benefit would be gained by beefing up its presence in the midwest and east coast. Also, a strong alliance with a Chinese carrier via Seattle or Portland would be most beneficial.

Gerry S

Not very likely. What next? Allegiant taking on Emirates?

Anonymous

Keep it simple Alaska

Nationalslugger15

Lol

Tricia Welshman

Alaska more than likely, shall be merging with another airline in the next few years.

Trenton

Alaska no longer serves Havana, Cuba.

TOm

I think when they want start long haul routes, Then with A321 XLR or A330-800 and maybe B787. The Europe is very undeserved from Seattle and Portland. Specially Central and Eastern Europe which has flourishing IT sector and other IT sectors. Actually who flies from Central Europe is Lufthansa from Frankfurt am Main Hub, but thats almost not in Central and Eastern Europe.

Dylan Shaffer

American Samoa isn’t a country but a part of the United States, so actually Alaskan would be flying to just another part of the United States in Polynesia.

JVM

This article was not well thought out. I mean, since when would Alaska ever take the 777, a380, 747, or even the a350?? Ridiculous. There was not even any mention of the NMA/797. This article was a joke; I was expecting something real about the prospects of Alaska taking the 321xlr/lr or NMA/797 or 787. Instead we heard how it could get 747s and even a380s. smh… Also I am confident in saying that Alaska will NEVER serve Tuvalu, Tonga, Fiji, American Samoa, Samoa, Kiribati, or any else of those seemingly random destinations listed. Not even French Polynesia. Expansion to Asia is unlikely, but maybe slightly makes more sense (although the Asian market is very saturated, with lots of overcapacity and now the coronavirus). Alaska is a largely domestic carrier, and its priorities are not going to change.

Tony

Anchorage is a good geographic hub for Alaska Airlines between Asia, Europe, and North America. Even Seattle or Portland can be good International gateways.

Jim

This is a silly article that says a whole lot of nothing. Number of factual blunders too. The A380 is no longer offered for sale. Boeing hasn’t sold a passenger a passenger 747 in quite some time. Neither would be remotely economical for an airline that is testing the waters with overseas flights. Alaska no longer flies to Cuba either.

Anonymous

I’ve always said 787 was the perfect solution for AS LH flights. The 787-8 and maybe the 787-9 are perfect. Keep in mind that Alaska would not want large aircraft, they have a ton of feed but that exists without LH connections. They also are quite Boeing loyal, dropping a lot of their A320ceo fleet. They don’t have a choice but to keep their NEOs due to the max capacity issues but they have a strong relationship with Boeing. They could not use the A330 because SeaTac being a very constricted airport would not handle the A330 well in the stands. The 787 would be easier to fit in and is more efficient and compatible with the 737maxes upcoming. They could fly to LGW, CDG, AMS, MAD, NRT, ICN, PVG, etc easily.

John Q

Alaska Airlines needs to start thinking about it’s long-term future. They won’t grow much in profits if they don’t seek out new opportunities and destinations. They spent a lot of money to acquire Virgin America; that will be a waste if all it gained were a few terminal gates (mostlyin CA), and older planes it didn’t really want. Especially so, if they continue to drop the Eastern U.S. destinations and instead, try to overserve every medium-sized, unprofitable West Coast town. Delta and AA will soon be increasing their flight frequency to the West, and Alaska will reach a smaller, isolated section of the country. If Alaska doesn’t want to eventually get asorbed by another airline, it must spread its reach and mostly-good reputation by trying to serve new destinations and underserved populations; it already has code-sharing partnerships that can’t cash in on regional Alaska’s reputation but must rely on it’s partnerships’ reputations.

Kian Zarnegar

I believe the airline has an appetite for expansion leading to a 2%+ plan of expansion per year. The preference, as we’ve known the airline, historically, would be the domestic, primarily focused on the West Coast dominance. With increased pan-Pacific passengers, there may be an opportunity for International expansion. The fact that potential markets may be on the horizon for expansions in central and/ or South America, Canada ( a market Alaska has quietly withdrew from), Brexit, would have the airline on a great position to continue what they do best, prioritize to maximize, … and you know the rest of the story. P.S. the
solvancy of gained Airbus aircraft, and the incoming ones from the merger with Virgin America would also have to be resolved.