Here’s a look back at the key Alaska Airlines news stories we’ve covered on One Mile at a Time over the years. Keep in mind that this isn’t intended to be an encyclopedic listing of everything that happened with the airline — these are just the highlights that resonated with me and the OMAAT community.
Alaska planned on fleet renewal being a major focus for 2020, leading to questions as to which planes (and from which manufacturers) they would choose.
Then, COVID hit, and Alaska Airlines made plans to cut capacity by 70% in April and May. Alaska ultimately announced a net loss of $232 million for the first quarter, compared to a profit of $4 million over the same period last year. As the pandemic unfolded, Alaska, along with other US airlines, was allowed to drop service to five markets, despite CARES Act restrictions. This gave the airline more flexibility, as they’d previously been operating highly creative (but realistically wasteful) tag flights.
In May, Alaska Airlines added a new flight from Anchorage to Adak via Cold Bay, expanding their network of “milk run” routes within the state that have long been popular with avgeeks, and are critical to isolated communities. This was followed by adding 10 new routes in July, a shocking five of which were to Florida.
After closing airport lounges for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alaska Airlines reopened their lounges in August. They also followed the lead of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines in eliminating change fees on all domestic and international tickets.
In late September we received the (unsurprising) news that Alaska’s entry into oneworld would be delayed until the first quarter of 2021, despite a “fast-track” announcement having been made earlier in the year.
A refreshingly honest take on basic economy class was sent out about Alaska’s Saver Fares.
2019 saw big changes to the Alaska lounge network, including long-awaited refreshes. The new “flagship” lounge finally opened at SEA, and the membership fee was raised. Alaska lounges in Portland and Anchorage discontinued their Priority Pass association in November, which was no huge loss in Portland, given the lounge was always capacity restricted and there are better options anyway, but was a definite downgrade for ANC flyers.
Horizon’s VP of Flight Operations wrote an internal memo after Thanksgiving (which of course leaked) decrying a lax safety culture at the subsidiary airline.
In December, Alaska continued their tradition of offering priority boarding to those who wear ugly holiday sweaters on National Ugly Holiday Sweater Day (which I can’t believe is a “holiday”, but whatever). A similar promotion was offered with Starbucks, though more people with cups of hot liquid seems like it would further slow Alaska’s already glacial boarding process.
The airline made news when an Alaska Airlines first officer filed a lawsuit against the airline alleging she was drugged and raped during a layover. In a separate case, a former pilot pled guilty in court to being under the influence of alcohol while piloting an Alaska Airlines flight back in 2014.
For the first time in the company’s history, Alaska Airlines had two female African American pilots in the cockpit. The airline also made headlines when someone claimed an issue with duplicate seat assignments was evidence of discrimination (a take I don’t agree with). There was also the drama of the highly-uncomfortable “Plane Bae” situation.
Like many carriers this year, Alaska introduced basic economy (which wasn’t a surprise), reduced their carry-on allowance, raised checked-bag fees, and dropped their Price Guarantee. They also updated their policy on Emotional Support Animals. Repeatedly.
In September, all of the Seattle lounges left the Priority Pass network, due to overcrowding and upcoming renovations.
Tensions throughout the United States were high in 2017, though an airplane is never the place for a caustic rant. Randi Zuckerberg later brought attention to the airline after being harassed by a fellow passenger on an Alaska flight.
Alaska Airlines canceled their Cuba flights (after only a year in service), while adding flights to an assortment of East Coast cities. Meanwhile, Horizon had to cancel numerous flights due to a pilot shortage.
The acquisition of Virgin America continued, with reciprocal lounge access starting early in the year, and culminating with Virgin America’s flight numbers being discontinued. There was also some drama regarding licensing fees for the name post-acquisition.
Over the summer, Alaska offered a charter flight for the Great American Eclipse.
Alaska Airlines announced a significant brand refresh early in the year, with new colors and design schemes.
Alaska expanded their operations in Newark, as part of their general plans to grow the airline.
Alaska announced their intention to purchase Virgin America in April. And in December, the Department of Justice approved the acquisition of Virgin America, after various lawsuits were settled. The Alaska-Virgin “merger” had significant implications for passengers, many of which were never fully addressed, and I generally considered this to be a bad outcome for consumers.
Meanwhile, a missed Alaska flight led a rapper to the second worst airport outburst I’ve ever seen.
In April, a ramp worker fell asleep in the cargo hold of an Alaska flight, though fortunately woke up shortly after takeoff. There was also a touching moment where an Alaska Airlines gate agent sang the national anthem prior to an Anchorage to Los Angeles flight.
The relationship between Alaska and Delta continued to deteriorate, with reciprocal lounge access being cut, and Meanwhile a lounge agreement was expanded with American. Alaska also started codeshare flights with Emirates.
Alaska added additional fare classes, allowing them to better segment the market.
Alaska started a partnership with regional carrier SkyWest, which necessitated the purchase of seven Embraer E175 jets to fly for Alaska.
Alaska expanded their flights to Salt Lake City, as part of their Delta partnership. They also made some changes to their same-day flight change policies, which cramped my style significantly as I lived near Seattle at the time.
Alaska’s year-end Investor Day brought interesting insights as to the future of the airline’s operations, and plenty of details about upgrades and award redemptions through Alaska Mileage Plan.
In a polarizing move, Alaska eliminated prayer cards on meal trays. Of course, the scandal was really in publicizing the change, as people who previously didn’t know about the prayer cards now had an opinion, and no one would have likely noticed if they had quietly disappeared.
When I was a 20 year-old in Tampa, the prospect of Alaska starting service to my local airport was fascinating news. 😉