Alaska Airlines to drop key winter destination flights out of Bellingham

Alaska Airlines now offering flights out of Everett

Alaska Airlines said Thursday it is now selling to tickets for flights from Everett that will begin Feb. 11, 2019. The airline has ticket sales with fares as low as $39 one way.
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Alaska Airlines said Thursday it is now selling to tickets for flights from Everett that will begin Feb. 11, 2019. The airline has ticket sales with fares as low as $39 one way.

Alaska Airlines has decided to end its seasonal flights between Bellingham and two Hawaiian destinations.

In a statement, spokesman Tim Thompson confirmed they were discontinuing seasonal flights from Bellingham to Maui and Kona.

“We know our Bellingham guests have enjoyed this service but we routinely adjust our schedules to ensure we’re flying the routes that make the best sense for our guests and our company. This adjustment will help us fly more efficiently and keep our fares affordable for our guests,” Thompson said in the statement.

He added that guests who have already made a reservation can request a refund or travel to Hawaii with a stop in Seattle.

With this announcement, Alaska now only offers 4-5 daily flights from Bellingham to Seattle, something that is expected to continue this winter, Thompson said. In recent years Alaska had offered flights from Bellingham to Portland and Las Vegas.

Alaska reducing its presence in the Bellingham market has less to do with the strength of the local market and more to do with the restructuring of the carrier’s network priorities, said Sunil Harman, director of aviation at the Port of Bellingham.

“Our assessment of the service is that both routes have been profitable, supporting higher average one-way base fares,” Harman said in an email.

Harman said they continue to meet with airlines about adding flights to Bellingham. While there’s nothing to announce yet, he believes demand for Hawaii in this region presents a tremendous opportunity for the right air carrier.

Direct flights to Hawaii appear to have been popular with people in this region as well as with British Columbia residents, particularly when the Canadian dollar was stronger. Skagit County resident Mike Kmet said the flights were full when he used the service. He was hoping to use it more and appreciated the fact he could avoid the Seattle traffic.

“(Alaska is a) great airline, but frustrating sometimes,” Kmet said in an email, adding that the flights to Seattle are not as attractive in terms of making connections to other flights compared to previous years.

Along with its merger to Virgin Airlines that was completed last year, the airline has been busy adjusting flight schedules, particularly on the West Coast. That includes adding 18 daily flights out of Paine Field in Everett. Those flights out of Everett go to Palm Springs, Portland, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, Orange County, San Francisco and San Jose.

Canadians are also seeing more options out of Vancouver International Airport. Last year Air Canada doubled the frequency of flights to Hawaii, including two daily flights to Honolulu and two to Maui.

Even before this announcement, It has been a sluggish year in terms of passenger traffic at the Bellingham International Airport. According to data from the Port of Bellingham, 147,682 people have flown out of Bellingham in the first five months of 2019. That’s down 7.9 percent compared to the same period in 2018. The airport could see a boost in traffic this summer after Allegiant added direct flights between Bellingham and Anchorage. Those flights began May 22 and run through Aug. 13.

Alaska Airlines began offering flights from Bellingham to Hawaii in January 2011, starting with Honolulu before adding Maui. It has tweaked its schedule regularly over the years, beginning the seasonal flights to Kona in 2016. Allegiant Air once offered flights between Bellingham and Hawaii, but dropped that service in 2014.

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Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.