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Old 03-18-2008, 09:20 AM   #1  
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Default Can Alaska Air Fight Off Virgin America?

Let's see what The HomeTeam is made of. I included the link to the news article because I also found the reader's comments (in SoundOff) rather interesting.

From Seattle PI:

Virgin America will begin flying Tuesday between Seattle and San Francisco, encroaching on Seattle-based Alaska Airlines' territory with low fares, mood-lit cabins, sleek leather seats, video-touch screens and -- later this year -- Internet service.

As Alaska Airlines phrased it in a recent internal memo to supervisors, "Today's competitive threat is the most significant we've faced in years." About 25 percent of the seats on Alaska flights and on flights of sister airline Horizon are between the Pacific Northwest and California.

Virgin's celebration begins with its passengers in San Francisco, who will be offered Seattle coffee, grunge music and its custom "Vir-million" champagne cocktails. The company spent $2 million retrofitting each Airbus A320 with electronics. Virgin America, which has no connection to Virgin Atlantic, is minority-held by Virgin Group.

"Seattle is an incredibly important market for San Francisco and Los Angeles," Virgin America President and Chief Executive David Cush said Monday. "We also have a product that is very much focused on high-tech, on consumer electronics. ... It is unlike anything that is flying in the domestic market."

Alaska Airlines will counter Tuesday with Alaska Spirit Day, offering employee prizes, including gift cards to Starbucks, Costco and Marriott Hotels. The next day, Alaska will hold an employee reception at Seattle headquarters.

"Alaska Spirit Day coincides with the start of Seattle-San Francisco service by our newest competitor -- Virgin America," according to the memo obtained by the Seattle P-I. "However, our battle to succeed has always been a fight against all carriers that fly on our routes, notably Southwest. We'll face more new competition from JetBlue, starting May 21."

Alaska's battle plan involves more than just engaging employees, said Steve Jarvis, Alaska's vice president of marketing, sales and customer experience.

It is countering with a new mileage plan -- "SEA Double" offers double miles on some routes -- additional flights, matched fares, better food and a new "West Most" advertising campaign. It will counter Virgin's $77 one-way San Francisco fare with a $73 fare.

"It's very Seattle-to-California oriented, and we're going to have some fun with it," Jarvis said.

Among the new flights from the Pacific Northwest to California, Alaska is adding three flights per day to Los Angeles, bringing the total to 15, to better compete with Virgin America's three daily flights to LAX beginning April 8.

"You're not late for one -- you're early for the next," Jarvis said of the shuttle model.

On the routes that Virgin America flies, Alaska will replace warm nuts and pizza in first class with fresh fruit, gourmet cheese, French toast, Asian rice noodle salad and Mediterranean pasta.

It is also trumpeting its all-Boeing fleet with "buy local, fly local" billboards.

"The message there, especially to Puget Sound, is we are an all-Boeing fleet. We are a great Boeing customer. Boeing is a customer of ours as well," Jarvis said. "The message is really geared toward the Northwest."

Because of ongoing pilot union negotiations, Alaska's key message may be lost on passengers Tuesday. While Virgin America's San Francisco-to-Seattle customers get champagne, Alaska's customers will get leaflets from the pilots claiming that the "spirit ... is nearly gone."

"You can't win the West with empty saddles," said David Campbell, an Alaska pilot and union spokesman. "They're really hoping that we'll be able to beat Virgin, and they are doing it with the memory of the Alaska spirit. They haven't done what it takes to engage us."

The pilots have been in contract negotiations for 15 months, and pay, retirement, health insurance and job protection remain stumbling blocks, said Sean Cassidy, an Alaska captain and a union vice chairman.

"We want to take on Virgin. We want to take on JetBlue. We don't want to be given platitudes and pep rallies."

Virgin CEO Cush commented briefly on the competition with Alaska in an interview.

"I think what they're going to have the most trouble competing with will be when we have the electronic platform on the aircraft," he said, adding, "that said, Alaska is a great airline. I'm sure they'll compete just fine."

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/busine...avirgin18.html
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Old 03-18-2008, 12:20 PM   #2  
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It's the same everywhere, good airlines are going downhill. I wouldn't be surprised to see Alaska pilots take another pay cut to compete with the likes of VA. Anyone under the age of 45 in this industry that isn't seriously taking steps to get out is foolish. I've got one foot out the door.
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Old 03-18-2008, 05:42 PM   #3  
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Alaska Airlines is not a GOOD airline. Sorry, I love the pilots and attendants but the airline just sucks. I must have flown them (and continue to as they're the only player) about 20 times over the last 1.5 years between ANC and southern California and I'd bet almost 50% of my flights have some sort of delay/problem - often maintenance. Their MD80s absolutely suck. Sorry, but if Virgin America and do a better job then we should welcome them. Regardless, Alaska owns the ANC market and I'd love to see some competition up there just to force improvements.
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Old 03-18-2008, 05:47 PM   #4  
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I'm an MVP Gold on Alaska/Horizon. I think they are the best airline around from a customer service/passenger standpoint. I go out of my way to use them whenever possible and I'm rarely disappointed. But, yeah, the MD80's need to go away.
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Old 03-18-2008, 06:14 PM   #5  
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Default Can Alaska Air Fight Off Virgin America?

de727UPS:

Thanks for your business at Alaska. We really appreciate it!
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Old 03-18-2008, 09:02 PM   #6  
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Originally Posted by de727ups View Post
I'm an MVP Gold on Alaska/Horizon. I think they are the best airline around from a customer service/passenger standpoint. I go out of my way to use them whenever possible and I'm rarely disappointed. But, yeah, the MD80's need to go away.
Don't worry...the mighty mad dog will be gone in August. The MD is a great plane though...if maintained right. But, when an airframe is on the way out, it is given just the bare essentials in regards to maintenance.

Last edited by Moose; 03-19-2008 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 03-19-2008, 12:23 PM   #7  
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Originally Posted by HPilot View Post
It's the same everywhere, good airlines are going downhill. I wouldn't be surprised to see Alaska pilots take another pay cut to compete with the likes of VA. Anyone under the age of 45 in this industry that isn't seriously taking steps to get out is foolish. I've got one foot out the door.
I don't think so. This group will pound sand if we don't get a big raise. This airline is bringing in record profits after 76 years of business. They can afford to give us a raise. And in 76 years of business they have seen plenty of competition before. It's not a new phenomenon. VA won't put us anywhere near out of business. Our on time will continue to be dismal if management continues to ignore our deserved big raise.
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Old 03-19-2008, 12:26 PM   #8  
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Virgin America will begin flying Tuesday between Seattle and San Francisco, encroaching on Seattle-based Alaska Airlines' territory with low fares, mood-lit cabins, sleek leather seats, video-touch screens and -- later this year -- Internet service.
Amazing what an airline can accomplish if it finds pilots who will work for far less than they're worth.
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Old 03-19-2008, 01:55 PM   #9  
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Although not a professional airline pilot, my “knowledge” of airlines in general and Alaska in particular comes from my friendship with one of the captains. This friendship is also the reason I take certain things so personally when a normal, reasonable person would not give it a second thought.

Viewing this as a passenger and customer, I find a little competition to be healthy. If the media is to be believed, Alaska is using this latest threat to spiff up its own service, schedule and fare structure. Did anyone look at the PI link with the pictures? The 9th one shows the interior of a VA plane. The mood lighting is very appealing; makes me wonder why I still have such a strong, sentimental affinity to the MD-80. And I really don’t care to eat Asian noodles, but that’s just me.

Can anyone confirm that the informational flyer is indeed being handed out to passengers? What feedback was received? I wonder about the efficacy of these types of brochures. Being an advocate of non-confrontational methods, I am a little disturbed by the implied threat of a strike. However, I understand the reasons behind it. I have said many times before on this board that if there is ever a strike, this lawyer is going down to the picket line with food and drink and moral support for my friends. [I might even be persuaded to fly my little C-172 and drop stink bombs on the roof of Alaska headquarters! ]

A final thought – is it possible to negotiate collaboratively given a “common enemy” in the form of Virgin America? The way I see it, management and the pilot group cannot do without the other and both sides know that. By trying to knock down the other side, you are only hurting yourself in the long term.

To the mods, I apologize if this post is out of place or in some way inappropriate. Please delete as you see fit. Better yet, give me an infraction.
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Old 03-19-2008, 03:50 PM   #10  
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Can anyone confirm that the informational flyer is indeed being handed out to passengers? What feedback was received? I wonder about the efficacy of these types of brochures. Being an advocate of non-confrontational methods, I am a little disturbed by the implied threat of a strike. However, I understand the reasons behind it. I have said many times before on this board that if there is ever a strike, this lawyer is going down to the picket line with food and drink and moral support for my friends. [I might even be persuaded to fly my little C-172 and drop stink bombs on the roof of Alaska headquarters! ]

A final thought – is it possible to negotiate collaboratively given a “common enemy” in the form of Virgin America? The way I see it, management and the pilot group cannot do without the other and both sides know that. By trying to knock down the other side, you are only hurting yourself in the long term.
Here I go again being negative. I have been told the leaflets were accepted well by customers. There was no implied threat of a strike. Although, a majority of pilots (as discovered through polling) feel self-help is the only way to get management to negotiate. A large percentage of the pilot group is tired of being knocked down and just don't care what happens.
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