FAIRBANKS, Alaska – A decision by Alaska Airlines to serve Fairbanks with turboprop airplanes instead of jets for service to Anchorage has launched a barrage of complaints from residents of Alaska’s second-largest city, with many expressing their anger through social media.
Much of the frustration focuses on the need to board the aircraft from outside, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1269o8l ).
The idea to use the Bombardier Q400 planes is not popular in Fairbanks, where temperatures drop to 40 below zero or colder every winter.
Fairbanks International Airport is equipped with jet ways to board jets.
Alaska Airlines Regional Vice-President Marilyn Romano said the turboprop flights aren’t scheduled to begin until 2014. The company over the next mine months will be working out details to address unusual aspects of flying in Alaska, Romano said.
“We know that introducing the Q400 to the state of Alaska represents a change for residents,” she said. “Between now and when flights begin in nine months, we’ll be working out a number of details to address the unusual aspects of flying in Alaska.”
The airline’s plan has prompted a storm of protests on its Facebook page. Alaska Airlines has responded to many of the posts.
The airline said one goal of using the turboprops is to cut operating expenses and ultimately lower fares.
The switch to turboprop planes will free up jets to be used for new routes between Anchorage and the Lower 48.
Three Q400 planes will mostly replace the Boeing 737 jets that now fly between Alaska’s two biggest cities, beginning next March. Q400s also will replace the 737 that flies to Kodiak from Anchorage twice daily from October through April.
The freed-up 737s will be used by Alaska Airlines for newly announced nonstop routes from Anchorage to Las Vegas and Phoenix.
The turboprops seat 76 people and have nearly the same travel time as the jet. They’ll be operated by Horizon Air employees but booked and marketed under Alaska Airlines.
Jet service will still be available for Fairbanks travellers on the route to Seattle, the seasonal flight to Portland, Ore., and on one 737-400 combination cargo and passenger jet flying between Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com