Why Northern Pacific Airways Has Chosen The Boeing 757

Northern Pacific’s choice of the Boeing 757 could be seen to raise a few eyebrows, given that it’s an older technology aircraft. However, the airline’s CEO Rob McKinney has made it clear that this was a decision driven out of necessity, and that new technology aircraft are certainly on the roadmap for the startup airline in the future.

Northern Pacific Airways
To launch operations, the Boeing 757 is ‘mister right now’. Photo: Northern Pacific Airways

Following in the footsteps of Icelandair

Northern Pacific Airways intends to be a brand new low-cost airline for Alaska, providing nonstop connectivity for locals to visit both Asia and the lower 48 US states, and vice versa. More critically, it intends to build its offering with a stopover opportunity, allowing passengers from both sides of its network to connect over Alaska, either as a one-stop itinerary or with a short break to explore Alaska built into their travel plan.

It’s a model that has worked well for European carrier Icelandair for some time. Passengers have been connecting over Keflavik between Europe and North America for many years, some directly transferring to their onward flight and others using the opportunity to explore Iceland for a few days in between. It’s a model that proved successful in the low-cost sphere to an extent (with WOW air) and which will be replicated again by PLAY in 2022.

Icelandair (Aurora Borealis Livery) Boeing 757-256 TF-FIU.jpg (2)
Icelandair has been a prolific operator of the 757. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

For Icelandair, despite being a full-service carrier, it has been able to offer highly competitive prices for these services thanks to its extensive use of single-aisle aircraft. Icelandair has been one of the more prolific operators of the Boeing 757 for its relatively small fleet size, flying 38 of the type over its 40-year history. But these aircraft are getting old and their efficiency is dwarfed by the contemporary alternatives – Icelandair has already retired 21.

But Northern Pacific is keen to keep the 757 flying. Its initial fleet will be entirely comprised of the Boeing 757, with 12 aircraft targeted to start. The airline has already secured the first six of 12 and is preparing to fly its initial aircraft to Alaska in its brand new livery early in 2022. So why is a new startup airline so keen to operate an older and less popular aircraft like this?

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Northern Pacific first 757
Northern Pacific has secured its first six 757-200s. Photo: Northern Pacific

Mister ‘right now’

Northern Pacific’s CEO Rob McKinney previously explained to Simple Flying that the choice of the 757 was driven more out of necessity than anything else. He called the aircraft ‘more mister right now than mister right’, noting that there are plenty of 757s around readily available to lease and at very attractive rates too. At our recent Future Flying Forum, he elaborated on the airline’s choice of initial aircraft saying,

“The original choice of the 757 was because that was really the only choice. That’s the only plane that was readily available, that we could press back into service, and that also had the capability of making the length of legs that we’re contemplating doing. There really wasn’t a whole palette of potential airframes to pick from and stay in the narrowbody space.”

Northern Pacific Airways
The 757 is readily available, which is important to NPA. Photo: Northern Pacific Airways

McKinney noted that it’s a fair argument to say that this is a 20-year-old technology airplane, and therefore is never going to compete on efficiency with the new-generation aircraft that are around. However, for Northern Pacific, getting the timing right for its service launch is everything. He said,

“We really see the opportunity here as a timing one. One of my favourite sayings is ‘we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good’. To us, good is getting going and getting the service off the ground while we still have the window of opportunity to do so.”

McKinney is a firm believer in new technology aircraft, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see an order in place for the A321neo or similar type of aircraft in the future. However, for the time being, the reliable 757 workhorse will be what gets this airline started. It will be great to see the old girls doing what they do best once again.

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