Alaska Airlines Enters the Shuttle Business

Aiming to avoid Southwest's pitfalls, Alaska Airlines launches four daily flights between San Francisco and San Diego. They will compete with United's five a day. Alaska Airlines dominates the market between the Northwest and California. But the SeaTac-based airline has largely avoided the huge air travel market between California cities.

The airline broke that pattern this week, announcing a foray into the intra-California business. Alaska said that beginning Oct. 29 it will fly four times daily between San Diego and San Francisco.

"Alaska Airlines is continuing to grow, connecting more points throughout the region in our West Coast backyard," said John MacLeod, Alaska's managing director of planning and alliances. "We're pleased that passengers traveling between the great cities of San Diego and San Francisco will now have another option for air travel."

In announcing the new service, Alaska carefully chose its markets. Only bankruptcy-weakened United Airlines flies nonstop between San Francisco and San Diego. United has five daily nonstop flights between the two cities.

Low-cost giant Southwest Airlines flies from San Diego to other Bay Area airports, but doesn't serve San Francisco.

Southwest pulled out of San Francisco several years ago because of the airport's high costs and its notoriously bad weather that frequently delayed flights. Alaska's flights might not be as weather-delayed as Southwest's were because the airline has equipped its planes with sophisticated navigation equipment, including head-up instrument displays and Global Positioning System landing systems.

Alaska in the last year has brought its costs down to levels competitive with low-cost carriers. It has already announced it is beefing up its schedule from California and the Northwest to Mexico, adding destinations such as La Paz.

Copyright: The News Tribune -- 8/14/06

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