New airline seeks to offer cheap flights to Asia, via Alaska

When Icelandair began offering cheap transatlantic fares to Iceland’s capital Reykajavik, it also served as an economical gateway for Americans to the rest of Europe. and a catalyst for tourism in the uncrowded northern island.

Now, startup airline Northern Pacific Airways is looking to emulate the model, using layovers in Alaska to slash airfare prices to Asia.

East by northwest

When regional Alaskan airline Ravn Air Group filed for bankruptcy in 2020, entrepreneur and Bitcoin billionaire Josh Jones led investment group Float Alaska in an $8 million acquisition for parts of the flight network. . Shortly after, Northern Pacific was launched, with plans to begin flights later this year and offer fares 10% to 20% cheaper than direct line routes from titans like Delta and United.

With a fleet of 197-seat Boeing 757-200s, the start-up is targeting young travelers on the lookout for bargains – just as overseas travel begins to pick up after its pandemic lull:

  • Its initial routes will connect New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando and Honolulu to major East Asian metros like Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Anchorage will serve as a hub for layovers, expediting customs clearance away from the busiest mainland airports and providing instant and multi-day layovers.
  • Trans-Pacific routes have been slow to recover from historic lows. According to leading lobby group Airlines for America, travel between the US and Japan in December was 87% below its 2019 rate, while travel to South Korea was 79% below of 2019. But Japan could ease its strict COVID controls by February, and its biggest travel agency JTB Corp expects normal levels by next year.

Alaskan Apathy: Unlike Icelandair, however, a hub in Alaska doesn’t quite double as a year-round tourist hotspot, especially for Asian travelers. Before the pandemic, about 60% of the state’s tourists arrived by cruise ship, with the vast majority visiting in the summer. Poor Alaska, always a stopover, never the destination.

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