Alaska Air Group is pulling its regional carrier Horizon Air out of the state of Alaska and closing its base in Anchorage. Alaska Airlines will take over those Horizon routes in March.
Alaska Air Group is pulling its regional carrier Horizon Air out of the state of Alaska and closing its base in Anchorage, saying the operation is too costly.
Horizon’s 51 Anchorage-based employees — 28 flight attendants and 23 pilots — will be offered relocation to bases in the Lower 48 states.
Since 2014, Horizon has flown three 76-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprops on a commuter route between Anchorage and Fairbanks, as well as flights serving mainly oil-company employees on to Deadhorse on Prudhoe Bay.
Effective March 10, Alaska Airlines will take over those routes, flying a much larger Boeing 737 jet with fewer daily frequencies.
Horizon employees are unable to transfer to Alaska Airlines as the two airlines have separate collective-bargaining agreements.
In an internal message to employees, Horizon Chief Executive Dave Campbell acknowledged that it was bad news for his Alaska-based staff.
But he said the carrier has struggled to operate reliably and cost-effectively in Alaska’s difficult and remote environment.
Although Horizon’s original intent in 2014 was to expand the Alaska operation, the lack of Horizon maintenance technicians in the state produced reliability issues.
In addition, the small size of the Anchorage base and the remoteness of the Alaska destinations forced Horizon to staff the base with almost twice the crew resources that would otherwise be needed.
“Operating our Q400s in Alaska was just too expensive, and we couldn’t make it work,” Campbell said.
He said that while the closure is not directly related to Horizon’s recent operational problems — an acute pilot shortage has caused hundreds of canceled flights every month for most of this year — maintaining the three Q400s in Alaska is too costly when those resources are needed on more critical routes in the Lower 48.
“Putting that aircraft and resources in our core regional markets, will help us recover faster,” Campbell said in the internal message.