I’ve flown Alaska a lot on Seattle to the Bay over the last couple years, and in particular the Seattle-San Jose route (for business, sometimes one-day but frequently multi-day roundtrips). I don’t think I ever got out of San Jose on time, and I had some bad experiences trying to get out of Seattle too.
I flew Southwest to San Jose to see my brother, and here’s what happened:
– ticket was half as expensive
– Southwest people were as cool or cooler than Alaska people (and I’ve really liked some of my Alaska crews)
– Seating was easy, even on a fairly full flight, and the seat seemed a little more comfortable than I remembered Alaska’s being
– departed on time for both flights
– arrived early for both flights
– Southwest has nice gates in San Jose, with available seating and normal airport amenities, while Alaska’s gates are pretty wretched (especially when overflowing with passengers from late and cancelled flights).
Southwest was like a machine, everything smooth and pleasant. I’ve had one Alaska round-trip that didn’t involve a cancelled flight, significant delays, or some other problem in the last eighteen months, when I started flying down regularly (though, in fairness, I may well have forgotten some).
Right now, if Alaska solved all their problems: they started to run on-time, they stopped having planes rip open mid-flight, all the rest of it, I’d still book Southwest on that route.
And I have to wonder, then — if someone like me, who’s been flying Alaska for as long as I can remember, and has always tended to chose them over similarly-priced competition (and paid a premium to book instead of United in some cases), has decided to give up on Alaska, how are they going to compete for passengers?
Fares? They can’t beat Southwest.
Service? Nothing differentiates them from United or anyone else flying around here, and Southwest’s pretty much just as good.
Routes? To Alaskan destinations, sure, but otherwise it’s not as if they have anything special compared to their peers.
The only reason I can think of is that Alaska’s fleet, since they have to fly out of Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Ketchican, are all well-equipped for really foul weather flying and their pilots, you’d expect, get more experience in those kind of conditions. But if that peace-of-mind is negated by the safety issues they’re having flying out of Sea-Tac, what’s left?