Northern Pacific Airways will offer cheap flights to Asia
The new airline plans to fly through Alaska and will offer both domestic routes across the United States as well as routes to Japan and South Korea.
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A The new US airline aiming to be ‘Icelandair of the Pacific’ is set to launch later this year with airfares at least 20% lower than standard flights between the US and East Asia.
Instead of Reykjavík, North Pacific Airways will depart Alaska, from an underused terminal at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, with a fleet of a dozen Boeing 757 jets flying at a time to points in the lower 48 states and to gateways in Japan and South Korea.
The first of these planes was unveiled at a ceremony in an airport hangar in San Bernardino, California, this week, where the startup’s executives shared details of their admittedly unconventional strategy.
Northern Pacific CEO Rob McKinney told AFAR that although he is used to hearing people dismiss his business plan as “crazy”, he thinks “now is the time ideal for starting an airline”.
Despite – or perhaps because of – the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, “we can enjoy easier access to planes and airports” which will likely become scarcer once the current crisis passes.
As for the fact that the Asian destinations the North Pacific proposes to serve are still effectively closed to most U.S. leisure travelers due to pandemic protocols, McKinney said he’s “optimistic” we’ll be well past the peak. of the pandemic as the airline takes off and restrictions ease.
The aim is to emulate Icelandair’s model by enticing travelers with low fares and layovers in Alaska to break up their journey. For domestic routes, Northern Pacific is considering flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York and Orlando; in Asia, it is targeting Seoul, South Korea, as well as Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka in Japan. International flights would last around seven or eight hours, which works with the range of the narrow-body 757, an aircraft that other airlines have used on shorter flights across the Atlantic.
The North Pacific planes will have 180 seats divided into three classes, comprising a dozen business class seats, as well as economy and premium economy class seats.
The carrier recently filed a ticket sales application with the U.S. Department of Transportation and aims to begin operations in the third or fourth quarter of 2022, McKinney said. However, it is not necessary to go through the rigorous certification process as a brand new airline; it is under an existing airline, Ravn Alaska, where McKinney is also CEO after buying out the regional carrier from bankruptcy in 2020. Ravn operates regional turboprop flights around Alaska and would partner with its sister airline to offer stopover passengers options to see d other parts of the state.
Of course, the big question with any startup is, will it succeed?
“Unfortunately, as history shows, the track record of airline startups is not good,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder and analyst at Atmosphere Research. But, he noted, the entry of new innovative companies into the market will encourage competition and benefit consumers. And travelers should expect to see more new entrants as travel resumes.
“Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do airline contractors,” he joked.
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