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Alaska goes big on new regional jets


Alaska Airlines, which last week announced it's buying Virgin America, has another big move underway: replacing much of its Horizon Air turboprop fleet with new regional jets that can fly longer routes, but without the cost of mainline jets.

Horizon, an Alaska subsidiary, has a single-model fleet of 52 Bombardier Q400 turboprops which fly many of the airline's shorter-distance routes, including quite a few in...surprise!...Alaska. The new planes, Embraer's E-175, are aimed “to fly ‘long, thin routes’ – destinations that are too distant for a turboprop, but currently don't have enough customer demand to fill a mainline jet," according to Horizon president David Campbell.

The 30 new planes, arriving starting next year, with an option for 33 more, will replace 15 of the Q400s, whose lease expires in 2018. They will open up numbers of new routes, and improve service on some existing routes. Like the Q400s, they will operate as a 2-class plane with about a dozen first-class seats.

Photo: E-175 in Alaska livery from Alaska Airlines


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