Northern Pacific will take to the skies in June. The carrier’s first route is now on sale, and it will fly nowhere close to the company’s home base in Anchorage. Instead, Northern Pacific will fly its 757-200 between Ontario, California and Las Vegas beginning in June with a limited service schedule.
The route is short, but it is also a popular one. And, bizarrely, that might actually help Northern Pacific sell some seats.
Working against Northern Pacific in this market is a general lack of name recognition and a spectacularly limited schedule. The company plans to fly only on Friday to Las Vegas and back on Sunday. Compared to as many as seven daily flights from Southwest Airlines or daily service from Frontier, that’s almost nothing. But the company is confident it could still work out. Rather than flying all day, every day, it is cherry-picking the “peak of the peak” flight times, hoping it can avoid dumping absurdly cheap fares into the market to compete.
The route and flight times also make for a relatively low barrier to entry for new customers. JSX CEO Alex Wilcox recently described a similar situation for his airline, noting that entering existing markets is often better for the company than connecting cities without service. “We actually do better initially in markets where we’re head-to-head with with major carriers. It’s actually a good thing for us because the cost [to a passenger] of switching is very low.” In particular, Wilcox noted that travelers can take JSX one way and a competitor the other, as their car would be at the same airport as when they left. Or they can easily switch back if they don’t like the experience.
Northern Pacific also needs to start getting some hours flown if it really plans to launch service. Keeping pilots current, keeping the aircraft moving, and proving to the FAA that is can run a real operation is part of staying in business as an airline. It also helps that the company keeps the aircraft based at Ontario, so this actually is home for it, not Anchorage.
So, yes, this is very much not what the company initially planned. And it is somewhat absurd. But not entirely so. And maybe that’s a good thing?
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