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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.