Alaska Airlines Is Adding Flights To Detroit, New York, And Philadelphia

Filed Under: Alaska, Virgin America

With Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America having closed late last year, it’s interesting to see what the expansion efforts of the combined airline look like. Just a couple of weeks ago we learned about the future of the “new” Alaska’s branding, and about how it’s basically going to be business as usual for Alaska.

Well, Alaska has just announced their three newest routes, all of which are either midcons or transcons, and all of which are redeyes on the eastbound flight (ouch!).


Portland to Detroit starting August 30, 2017

The flight will operate using an Alaska 737, with the following schedule:

Portland to Detroit departing 10:30PM arriving 5:30AM (+1 day)
Detroit to Portland departing 7:00AM arriving 8:45AM

Los Angeles to Philadelphia starting September 1, 2017 

The flight will operate using a Virgin America A320, with the following schedule:

Los Angeles to Philadelphia departing 8:45PM arriving 5:00AM (+1 day)
Philadelphia to Los Angeles departing 6:30AM arriving 9:26AM

Portland to New York JFK starting November 6, 2017

The flight will operate using an Alaska 737, with the following schedule:

Portland to New York JFK departing 11:05PM arriving 7:30AM (+1 day)
New York JFK to Portland departing 9:30AM arriving 12:55PM

My thoughts on this expansion

I think the Portland to Detroit route is the least interesting. Keep in mind that Alaska is cutting ties completely with Delta, so it seems that they’re adding this route solely for those looking to travel to Detroit (or those in Detroit looking to travel to the Pacific Northwest), since there won’t be many onward connection opportunities.

The New York JFK flight is only Alaska’s second route to JFK (excluding Virgin America routes), as they started flights from Seattle to New York in September 2015. This makes sense given how many partners they have flying out of JFK, though I find the schedule a bit frustrating, with a redeye to New York, and a morning departure out of New York. This makes it tough to connect passengers traveling to/from Europe. However, I suspect Alaska could only get a gate in the morning.

The Philadelphia route is clearly intended more for the Virgin America customer base than the Alaska customer base, given that most of Alaska’s California growth has been out of San Jose, Oakland, and San Diego. This flight will be operated by a Virgin America plane, meaning that it will feature a superior first class product, though elite members also won’t get free upgrades on the route for the time being (this will change in late 2018, though the planes should also feature inferior seats by then).


Alaska’s long term transcon strategy

This expansion is rational enough, though long term I’m still curious to see what Alaska’s transcon strategy is, especially on the “premium” routes. Alaska has said that they eventually plan on putting their 737s on their routes from New York to Los Angeles/San Francisco, which will just feature standard domestic first class seats with marginally better legroom than what other airlines offer.


This can’t compete with the other products in the market, though maybe they’re fine with that, given how much premium transcon fares have been driven down the past few years, due to JetBlue Mint.

Bottom line

These are some logical new routes on Alaska’s part, especially the new Portland to New York flight. I look forward to seeing Alaska’s continued growth post-merger, as much as I’m a bit puzzled by their product choice.

What do you make of Alaska’s three new routes?

  1. I was so excited by the merger, but the dumbing down of VA to match subpar Alaska hard product in first but on TRANSCONS makes me wonder what they are thinking. Whose going to take the VA flights on the premium routes when AA/UA/Delta all fly lie flats between LAX and JFK.

  2. dont you mean redeyes on the eastbound flights? The flights all leave the west coast at night and arrive the east coast the next morning. Westbound flights are leaving in the morning and arriving on the west coast late morning. that is NOT a redeye flight.

  3. You meant red-eyes on the eastbound flights, right? You wrote westbound, which are all morning departures.

  4. Nobody with a lick of sense is connecting TATL from PDX with super long waits at JFK when you can take the connect at SEA/SFO/LAX/YVR to BA/AF/KL. If they are it’s because the flights are super cheap or they are on an award (but I repeat myself).

    These are aircraft utilization flights since all the low-hanging fruit is gone now…

  5. The PHL route is driven by the DOJ settlement that allowed the merger, Alaska is not permitted to place its code on AA LAX-PHL (as a flight between LAX and ‘a key American Airport’).

  6. Alaska has great customer service, generous lounge access (when it’s not overcrowded), and a great frequent flier program, but everything about flying them is pretty bad.

    For a transcon, they’re easily the worst airline, especially for a red-eye. Their first class seats are way too tight and have coach-levels of recline. Their soft product is even less competitive- they don’t even offer a blanket or pillow let alone eye shades or an ear plugs. Technically they serve food, but it’s the worst food of any airline in the US, and the service is unnecessarily drawn out on longer flights.

    They’re delusional if they think Virgin America flyers aren’t going to take their business elsewhere once they start Alaskafying the cabins.

  7. Do you ever see a route to Toronto? They could be quite attractive for Canadians, and those coming through YYZ, to get to Vancouver and the west coast of the US. And of course Hawaii which is a pain with AC and WestJet from Toronto.

  8. The “lay flats” have come and gone before and they will this time as well. AS does a great job of long term planning. I think their new cabins will be a winner. The new current configuration for first and premium is great. As a long time AS high mileage flyer ( all F) the new “fronts” are full of room. I have also gone back and sat in the premium coach with seating space comparable to the old 16 seat first. Nice. Now only if AS can do something about it’s subpar cabin service. “one can only hope”

  9. Perhaps Delta’s introduction of a 757-300 on their Detroit-Portland service was in response to this…lately, it’s been on a 737-900 and I thought was switching to A321 this summer. Alaska’s Seattle-Detroit nonstop has done wonders for us Delta adherents in DTW in terms of lowering fares…maybe the same will be true on the PDX route.

  10. I’m happy just to see *any* competition on the PHL-LAX route. Right now the options are AA and Spirit for non-stop flights. That’s it. And the AA flights are on the crappy legacy USAir 321s.

  11. Lucky,

    I don’t know if I agree with this comment:

    “This can’t compete with the other products in the market, though maybe they’re fine with that, given how much premium transcon fares have been driven down the past few years, due to JetBlue Mint.”

    Virgin was competing very well on transcon routes despite an inferior first class product because they offered an economy product that was seen as cooler or superior than Delta/United/AA/Jet Blue. AA de-emphasized coach with its smaller planes, and United/Jet Blue have a mediocre reputation in coach generally (Delta competes fine) In addition, if you don’t plan on sleeping, Virgin’s old first class was fine for many customers.Alaska may lose some of this advantage as they rebrand, but Virgin always seemed to have strong customer recognition for is transcon product.

  12. LAX-PHL is interesting. VX operated SFO-PHL for a few years and pulled out because it was financially unviable. Since then, transcons to PHL have been primarily AA, with 1 AS from SEA and 2 UA from SFO. Wonder how they’ll make money – they are fighting against 6x daily AA flights.

  13. Whats wrong with eastbound red eyes? That allows for maximum time spent on the west coast. I rather leave at 10pm Sunday, having enjoyed my full day, arrive at 5am, and have time to shower before work at 9am.

  14. Personally I am happy to see they are adding Detroit. I will finally be able to use my Alaska companion certs after making the short drive from CLE.

  15. I sometimes fly AA SEA-JFK, departing in the morning. I fly AS JFK-SEA, departing in the early morning, around 7:15 am.

    With the AA partnership becoming next to nothing in 2018, I will not fly an AS SEA-JFK redeye. (If there are flat bed seats, it is possible to fly a red eye but not in economy class). What that means is that I will either buy a one way JFK-SEA ticket and fly AA or DL SEA-JFK or fly AS SEA-EWR.

    There are those in PDX who probably feel the same way.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *