Alaska Airlines to change aircraft serving Nome
By Diana Haecker
It was not a press release that announced changes to Alaska Airlines’ service to Nome, but whispers on the street. Those whispers proved true as Alaska Airlines confirmed this week that it indeed plans to use smaller aircraft to transport passengers between Nome and Anchorage, starting in the summer of 2022.
“The new schedule will include a blend of 737 and an Embraer 175 (E175). Both are jet aircrafts,” said Alaska Airlines spokesperson Tim Thompson in an email to the Nugget. The route would be operated by Horizon Air, Alaska Airlines’ sister carrier. “They are flying the E175 that has been flying in Alaska from Anchorage to King Salmon, Dillingham, Fairbanks, Seattle and Portland,” he said.
The schedule of two flights daily, seven days a week will remain.
“In the summer of 2022, our plan is to introduce an Embraer 175 jet aircraft for the morning flight into/out of Nome,” he said.
The E175 is a 76-seat twin engine jet, with 12 first class seats, 12 premium seats and 52 main cabin seats that are similar to a 737 aircraft. In the main cabin, seating is two seats per row. The E175 is similar to the 737 in amenities onboard the aircraft and guests can expect the same service they are accustomed to when flying with Alaska Airlines, he said.
If smaller planes will start serving Nome, will the travel time be longer?
No, said Thompson, travel time will not be longer. “The E175 flies at the same altitude and about the same speed as a 737,” he said.
The evening “looper” from Anchorage to Nome, to Kotzebue and back to Anchorage will be a 737 aircraft.
Why was the decision made?
“It’s about right sizing the aircraft for the market,” Thompson responded. For years, he said, Alaska Airlines flew a combi aircraft with 72 seats behind the cargo spacer. “This allowed us to fly both passengers and cargo. Since the combi has been retired, we’ve introduced a full freighter fleet and mainly used 737-700 and 800’s into the market. Introduction of the E175 allows us options for utilizing multiple aircraft types.”
However, the introduction of the freighter fleet did not go all that smooth. Mechanical issues encountered while retrofitting the planes to freighters grounded the three aircraft that bring cargo to rural Alaska and delayed cargo coming to Nome and other rural hubs ahead of the Christmas holidays, in 2019.
Thompson maintained that change to the E175 planes won’t have an impact on cargo movement. “We have a dedicated freighter fleet for cargo movements,” he said. “We also have our Freight for Less program for Club 49 members, allowing them to ship up to two containers (100 lbs total) instate for a set fee of $49 plus tax. We’ll also be able to use both the E175 and 737 to move last minute goods.”
As for luggage allowance, he said, Alaska Airlines will still allow three bags for instate travel and two bags are offered through Club 49 for travel outside or to Alaska.
Asked why rural Alaskans depending on Alaska Airlines to fly to the road system were not informed of the planned changes, Thompson said, “We don’t typically put out a release on aircraft changes. We did a release in 2020 when the E175 was introduced in the state of Alaska.”