John Kirby, Alaska Airline’s Vice President of Capacity Planning spoke to Everett Rotarians late last week to report on progress for the privately-owned passenger terminal under construction at Paine Field, as well as the Virgin America merger.
Kirby shared Alaska is very excited to be moving into Paine Field, something he says was “not an easy decision” and goes “against conventional wisdom.” As part of the overall plan to be the West Coast’s go-to brand for air travel, the move to join Paine was ultimately predicated on customer service in light of increasing levels of regional transportation gridlock.The flight destinations were chosen based on their frequency of travel, hopefully ensuring that all the seats will be filled, and that the complimentary relationship between Paine Field and SeaTac is lived out to its fullest.
Paine Field is now slotted to operate as one of only a handful of privately owned airports in the country. While privately run airports are common in Europe, it’s a concept that’s struggling to gain ground in America. The $40 million terminal is on-time, built from scratch to serve the future needs of flyers north of Seattle, and is configured to support 24 departures a day.Alaska has taken nearly half of the departures with the remainder being split between United and Southwest.
Kirby transitioned to the Virgin integration and stated that ticketing integration will occur between the two reservation systems in the next 7-10 days.Passengers will be able to book all flights from the Alaska Airlines online portal or the app.Of greater interest to Virgin passengers, Alaska publicly expressed the need to increase customer affinity with their brand, a Virgin strength that included industry leading cabin mood-lighting, ticketing and cabin mood music for the pre-and-post flight experience, and cabin design. Some of the Virgin Airbus planes have been repainted, but Alaska is currently in the process of upgrading the interiors of Alaska aircraft through 2019.
One comment caused an audible reaction among those in attendance, Kirby hinted Alaska is likely to offer seasonal service from Everett to Hawai’i. Proposed routes have to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, but Kirby indicated that of all the city pairs evaluated by Alaska, Everett to Hawai’i was at the top of the list after those they’ve announced so far.