Alaska Airlines’ aggressive push into new markets and its increase in its fleet’s seating capacity has finally resulted in a drop in the percentage of seats filled on its planes in December.
Alaska, based in SeaTac, also faces fresh competition from Delta Air Lines on many of its most-traveled routes.
According to December results released this week, Alaska filled 85 percent of its seats with paying passengers last month compared with 87.5 percent a year earlier. The airline saw its passenger capacity jump by 12.3 percent in December compared with an increase in passengers of 9.1 percent.
The airline in recent months has pioneered a dozen new nonstop routes from Sea-Tac as well increasing the capacity of its existing jets by installing thinner seats that allow the airline to carry more passengers per aircraft.
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For the full year 2014, Alaska’s load factor, the percentage of seats filled by paying passengers, dropped from 85.6 percent in 2013 to 85.1 percent last year.
The airline’s on-time performance also took a hit in December with its mainline flights (those flown by the airline’s full-size jets) falling to 80 percent from 85.4 percent in December 2013.
Some pilots report that increasing congestion at Sea-Tac because of the increase in flights by both Delta and Alaska has affected the ability of flights to meet their timetables.
Delta is making Sea-Tac a hub for its West Coast international flights. It has increased the number of domestic flights to and from Sea-Tac to support those international flights.