Defending Alaska

Omar has been slamming Alaska Airlines over on his blog, joined by Dvorak. I have been guilty of slamming particular airlines on this blog, and will spend lots of money to avoid flying United or Northwest, so I think he has every right to do this. But I want to counter his criticism of Alaska and try to defend them a little bit.

First, he is talking only about flights out of SFO (the same mistake Dvorak makes), which is a hub controlled by a competitor airline, United. United had the worst on-time record in the world for some time, and I have twice had UA pay for Alaska tickets for me when they screwed up so bad they could not get me home on the scheduled day. These were UA out of SFO; Alaska has never missed planes this badly for me anywhere. I don’t want to bother looking up stats for other airlines out of SFO, but I dont think Alaska is unique in this regard. UA completely dominates the SFO to Seattle route, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to find out that they are finally learning how to be on time for this route. It also wouldn’t surprise me to find that Alaska does worse on this route (in terms of profit as well as timeliness) than on other routes.

On the other hand, when flying out of Seattle to places other than SFO, I have found Alaska to be much better than UA or American (although they are operated by NWA on some routes, and I have had typical bad NWA experiences on these flights).

So I think it’s really unfair to be slamming an airline about performance on one route; especially at a hub controlled by a competitor. I wrote off UA and NWA only after repeated gross problems including at their own hubs. If Omar and Dvorak want to say, “don’t fly Alaska to SFO”, then that’s fair (and I might agree, but for air-miles, since I no longer need red carpet club). But not everyone in the world is concerned about the SEA-SFO route, and for people who fly elsewhere (especially out of Seattle), it would be rotten advice to direct them to UA, NWA, or even AA. Alaska is simply better. Take the complaints in context.

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