by Michael Lowrey
Effective June 8, 2017 on a 160-seat Boeing 737-800. Yes, that is a ways out, and yes, it’s very early for an airline to make such a route announcement. And if you remembered something about the Triangle just getting a flight to Seattle (SEA), you’d be correct; Alaska Airlines started SEA-RDU service back on Oct. 1, 2015.
Three interesting points about this route:
1. Alaska Airlines and Delta aren’t exactly playing friendly in Seattle these days.
2. Transcon flight demand in general is seasonal and Seattle in particular is a strongly season market. (Who wants to be in Seattle in January?) By comparison, American Airlines offers four flights a day from Charlotte to Seattle in summer but only two in winter. (Neither Alaska nor Delta fly CLT-SEA.) While there may well be enough demand to fill two RDU-SEA flights a day in June, July, and August, it will be very interesting to see if the market can support 14 flights a week in winter and if not, who blinks first.
3. The timing of the RDU-SEA flights is also interesting. The flight times with the lowest opportunity cost would involve a late afternoon or early evening departure from RDU, with the play arriving in Seattle about, say, 8:30pm and then flying back to Raleigh at about 11:00pam so as to arrive at RDU about dawn. A redeye return, in other words. American typically uses this service pattern for West Coast destinations it only serves once a day from Charlotte.
Neither Delta nor Alaska is using that service pattern though. OK, a redeye return wouldn’t make sense for Alaska Airlines, as this is its only flight to RDU, it would would mean that its plan would sit at RDU for 10 daylight hours. Delta could make it work, as it has a tone of flights from Raleigh. Actual flight times:
Alaska: RDU depart 5:50p, SEA arrive 9:00p; SEA depart 8:40a, RDU arrival 4:50p
Delta: RDU depart 7:45a, SEA arrive 10:30a; SEA depart 11:30a, RDU arrival 7:32p
The lack of an afternoon/evening departure from Seattle to Raleigh means that the two nonstops won’t — can’t really — carry all the traffic between the two cities. Some traffic will connect in Charlotte, Atlanta, Chicago etc., and this will put further pressure on the nonstops in winter.