In preparation for daily flights between Juneau and Seattle starting May 29, Delta Air Lines performed test flights in the capital city on Wednesday. For a long time, Alaska Airlines has been the only one flying that route.
Juneau is set to benefit from the competing partner airlines.
Alaska travel analyst Scott McMurren says the power of competition goes a long way in lowering airfares.
“The moment that Delta’s rubber hits the tarmac in Juneau, fares will be at historic lows. The moment Delta leaves the market, fares will immediately return to their previous level. This is a great opportunity for Juneau travelers, and that great opportunity will last as long as Delta flies there and not a moment longer,” McMurren says.
An online spot check of round-trip flights between Juneau and Seattle in early June showed the airlines offered the same fares, $487.40. In September when Delta service ends, flights on Alaska Air Lines jump $80.
Adding service to Juneau is part of Delta’s expansion in Seattle. Right now, the airline makes 35 daily departures out of Sea-Tac Airport. By August, Delta hopes to increase that to 86 departures.
“We are reaching out to markets that are key travel markets for us that allow us to carry passengers both into Seattle as well as connect them onto international flights. We’re adding a significant amount of international service. We just added London Heathrow at the end of March and we are going to add Hong Kong and Seoul in June,” says Anthony Black, Delta spokesman.
The airline already flies from Seattle to Amsterdam, Paris, Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo.
Connecting to international destinations is what Black says will set Delta apart from Alaska Airlines, which only flies internationally to Canada and Mexico.
Between Juneau and Seattle, Delta will be flying a Boeing 757. Alaska Airlines uses 737s. Black says a 757 can carry more passengers and has more powerful engines.
He also says Delta’s prices are competitive and, so far, Delta is pleased with bookings.
Marilyn Romano, regional vice president for Alaska Airlines, says she feels very secure with Alaska’s position in Juneau. She says Delta’s one flight a day between Juneau and Seattle during the summer doesn’t compare with Alaska’s eight flights a day.
“That’s our standard operating business coming in and out of Juneau and that doesn’t include all the other flights that we have – Anchorage to Juneau, or Juneau to other cities in Southeast Alaska – so as far as competing, I think we feel like we’ve been operating daily service into Juneau for over four decades,” Romano says.
Plus, there’s free baggage if you’re a member of Club 49, the airline’s program for Alaska residents, and bonus mileage, like last summer. Travelers flying on Delta from Juneau to Seattle will still get Alaska Airlines miles, though.
While Alaska and Delta are now competing in Juneau, the two airlines are partners for other destinations.
“At times, the competitive nature of our business is bigger than at other times and this is probably one of those times. We’re doing what we need to do to grow our business and Delta will do what Delta feels they need to do to grow their business, and at the same time, we are partners, so it’s a unique situation,” Black says.
Juneau International Airport manager Patty deLaBruere says competition is good for Juneau’s economy.
“Alaska Airlines, I think, has taken very good care of people up here but Delta may add a different flair on what they’re going to do for the travelers. So choice is good,” says deLaBruere.
That also means more revenue for the airport, an enterprise of the City and Borough of Juneau. Renting space for a check-in counter and offices, flying in and out, and parking its plane overnight in Juneau for the summer will cost Delta about $90,000.