Delta, Alaska turning up the competitive volume again

Staff writerDecember 2, 2013 

Airline passengers are beginning to reap the benefits of an ever-larger fight between two airlines, Alaska and Delta, for market share on the West Coast as fares plunge and frequent flier miles multiply.

As Delta announces still further additions to its West Coast flight schedule in markets now dominated by SeaTac's Alaska Airlines, air fares are falling as low as $49 each way from Sea-Tac Airport to airports in the San Francisco Bay area.

Those low fares, a little more than half the least expensive fares a month ago, were announced in a Cyber Monday sale by Alaska Monday. They are likely to be matched by Delta and other airlines in the same market.

Those cheap fares, which must be purchased by Dec. 9 and which apply only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from Jan. 7 through March 5, include prices as low as $69 each way to Los Angeles from Sea-Tac, $79 to Las Vegas, $89 to San Antonio and Austin, $99 to Denver and St. Louis and $109 to Dallas, to name a few examples.

The fare sale also returns prices not seen in years for coast-to-coast travel: $99 from Seattle to Philadelphia, and $124 each way from Sea-Tac to New York and Boston.

Both Alaska and Delta are also offering their frequent flier program members who sign up for their special promotion double miles on select routes.

The fare sale is triggered in part by the normal decline in winter travel, but also by Delta's aggressive moves into the Seattle market.

The Atlanta-based airline this week plans to announce further flights in core Alaska's markets. Those include five daily flights between Sea-Tac and Vancouver, B.C. and seasonal flights between Seattle and Fairbanks, Alaska.

Delta has already stepped into several markets where Alaska has been the dominant airline including Seattle-Los Angeles, Seattle-Las Vegas, Seattle-San Diego and Seattle-Portland.

Some of those Delta routes including Seattle-San Diego and Seattle-Vancouver, don't begin until next spring.

The increased rivalry comes as the two airlines remain partners in their frequent flier programs and in flight "code sharing" in which they label some of their rival's flights as their own.

Another sign that the two airlines' relationship may be fraying: Alaska and Delta say they won't share gates at 13 airports across the country after March 31. 

Delta had been providing Alaska for a fee passenger and baggage services and ramp and ground handling at airports where Alaska had only a few flights a day.

Alaska said it is seeking other airlines or contractors to handle its flights at those airports.

Delta in the last two years has taken major steps to turn Sea-Tac into its West Coast international hub.  By next spring, the airline will have non-stop flights from Sea-Tac to London, Amsterdam, Paris, Seoul, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo's two airports, Narita and Haneda.

Delta partnered with Alaska to provide connecting domestic flights with those international flights, but the airline has said it needs more of its own connections to feed those international operations.

Alaska is still the dominant airline at Sea-Tac with more than 50 percent of the passenger traffic.  Delta has about 14 percent of the passenger volume, but the airline has risen to second place at the airport by market share.

 

 

 

 

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