Alaska Gets Competitive: Delta Upgrades Flights From New York

Alaska is growing incredibly competitive this summer. Delta, which announced a major service increase to the state in March, is now responding to the growing competitive market. After United Airlines announced a new link from its hub in Newark to Anchorage, Delta has upgraded its New York to Anchorage flight. With plenty of capacity scheduled to the state, this summer will be incredibly competitive.

Delta Boeing 767-300Er
Delta will be flying the Boeing 767-300ER from not one but two hubs to Alaska this summer. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta Air Lines upgrades flights from New York to Alaska

Delta announced service increases to Alaska in mid-March. The airline noted a new nonstop flight from its hub at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). This weekend service was initially filed to fly with a Boeing 757 featuring recliner-style seats in the premium cabin.

However, Delta has now upgraded its flights from New York to Alaska. Now, the nonstop weekend service is slated to operate using a Boeing 767-300ER. This is a huge upgrade for premium travelers, who will now get to delight in a lie-flat seat.

Boeing 767-300ER
The Boeing 767-300ER represents a significant capacity increase compared to the 757. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The Boeing 767-300ER will also run on Delta’s daily flights from its largest hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). The other services to Alaska from hubs like Detroit and Minneapolis will run on domestically configured narrowbody aircraft.

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United adds flying to Alaska

At the end of April, United Airlines announced a huge schedule addition. This also included an expansion in flights to Alaska. This summer, United will fly to Alaska from five hubs (Chicago, Denver, Houston, Newark, and San Francisco).

All aircraft scheduled flying to Alaska on United are narrowbody jets. From San Francisco, the primary aircraft to Alaska flying are Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft. Chicago, Houston, and Denver will see Boeing 737 MAX operations. Meanwhile, Newark will see Boeing 757 service to Anchorage.

United Boeing 757
United Airlines will fly a Boeing 757-200 from Newark, with most other flights from Chicago, Denver, and Houston on Boeing 737 MAX jets. Photo: Jay Singh | Simple Flying

American Airlines brings the Dreamliner

The last of the big three is American Airlines, which is bringing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Alaska this summer. Flights from Chicago and Dallas to Anchorage will run on Boeing 787-9s. Meanwhile, Phoenix will see Airbus A321neo operations to Alaska.

American Boeing 787-9
The Boeing 787-9 will fly from two American hubs to Anchorage this summer. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

This service increase comes as American deepens its partnership with Alaska Airlines. Both airlines are part of the oneworld alliance, and the two are deepening their partnership in the western US and Alaska. Alaska Airlines will also be growing flights out of Alaska.

Alaska will be competitive this summer

A new entrant into the market is Frontier Airlines, which is only coming in twice per week from Denver to Anchorage this summer. While Frontier is an ultra-low-cost carrier, it also believes that pent-up leisure travel demand will lead many to Alaska, where outdoor beauty and the potential for the restart of cruises could lead to a significant number of passengers booking travel.

Frontier Airbus A320neo
Frontier Airlines is also throwing its hat in the ring, with two weekly flights scheduled to Anchorage this summer. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

All of this means there will be some deals to be had this summer. Peak leisure day travel may see some steep fares, as airlines try to extract as much revenue as possible and reduce their losses. However, for those with flexibility with their travel dates, the market seems ripe for overcapacity.

With most airlines cutting their international long-haul capacity for the summer, there are plenty of spare widebody jets to go around. Other capacity cuts in domestic markets, particularly on business-heavy routes, have freed up aircraft to run more flights to Anchorage.

American Airlines
American Airlines can also leverage its partnership with Alaska Airlines to capture travelers heading to and from Alaska. Photo: Getty Images

While this may seem like capacity dumping, airlines have a lower threshold for turning a profit on this flight. With payroll support aid from the government covering salaries for the crew, the cost to upgauge flights and the revenue airlines need to make flights profitable is lower.

If airlines did not fly flights to Alaska, the jets would probably sit around idle. Taking away excess capacity is much easier than it is to add capacity. Adding new capacity means ensuring the right crew and plane is available. To keep its planes full, airlines will add capacity with a lag compared to when demand appears to have enough time to sell enough tickets on the aircraft.

Delta Boeing 757
Delta Air Lines traditionally flies heavy summer schedules to Alaska, but it is expanding those even further in 2021. Photo: Getty Images

With much of Europe, Asia, and the Pacific current, and likely for several months more, closed to most Americans, passengers want to fly domestically. So, airlines are pointing their planes to Alaska at levels never seen before. What will be interesting to see is how loads and fares turn out on flights to Alaska.

Will you be flying to Alaska this summer? Which route and airline do you want to take? Let us know in the comments!