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Alaska Airlines to close New York pilot base to focus on West Coast demand

An American Airlines plane taxis past parked Alaska Airlines airplanes, Friday, April 13, 2018, at t
An American Airlines plane taxis past Alaska Airlines airplanes at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Alaska Airlines plans to close its pilot base in New York.
(Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Alaska Airlines has vowed to be the dominant carrier of the West Coast — a goal that was aided when it acquired Burlingame, Calif.-based Virgin America in 2016.

Now, the Seattle-based airline has announced that it plans to close its pilot base at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in September and move those pilots to California.

The 117 pilots operating out of the New York offices will be offered jobs at Alaska’s hubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco — a move that shows the airline is focusing on its growing demand on the West Coast.

“By shifting pilots to other bases, we can better support our daily flight schedule that, for the most part, begins on the West Coast,” Alaska spokesman Ray Lane said.

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Lane stressed, though, that Alaska will continue to fly to New York airports, such as JFK and Newark Liberty International Airport. In fact, Alaska recently announced new nonstop flights from San Jose to the JFK airport.

When Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America for $2.6 billion in 2016, airline representatives said Virgin America’s planes and airport gates would help make Alaska the dominant airline of the West Coast.

But to earn that title, Alaska Airlines must overtake Southwest Airlines, which flies more passengers in and out of California each year than any other airline.

Southwest, the nation’s busiest domestic carrier, now operates more than 700 daily departures from 10 airports throughout California, more than any other state in the Southwest network.

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hugo.martin@latimes.com

To read more about the travel and tourism industries, follow @hugomartin on Twitter.


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