AviationNorthern Pacific Airways to start full-service flights from South Korea and Japan to five US cities in 2022.

Soon, there'll be a cheaper US-Asia connection

Northern Pacific Airways will employ single-aisle Boeing 757s.
Northern Pacific Airways will employ single-aisle Boeing 757s. Photo Credit: Northern Pacific Airways

The owner of Float Alaska, the parent company of regional airline Ravn Alaska, is planning to launch a new full-service carrier connecting Asia with the continental US, via Anchorage, late 3Q 2022.

Geographically, the area constitutes 49 States (including Alaska, excluding Hawaii) located on the continent of North America, and the District of Columbia.

CEO Rob McKinney envisions that the new airline, called Northern Pacific Airways, will evolve into a sort of Icelandair of the Pacific, with travellers taking advantage of the option of a free stopover in Anchorage to tour Alaska, in some cases facilitated by Ravn's regional flight network.

"We're real big fans of what Icelandair has accomplished, and our offering is going to be fairly similar to what they do," said McKinney.

But replicating the Icelandair one-stop, US-to-Europe model over the longer distances of the Pacific Ocean won't be easy, analysts say.

Bob Mann, owner of the consulting firm R.W. Mann & Co., said that in its early days, a key element of Icelandair's business was its facilitation of the Iceland fishing industry. Only later did the US-to-Europe model with stopovers evolve.

"I don't quite see the same underlying business proposition," Mann said of Northern Pacific. "Not to say they couldn't get there if they operate reliably for a period of years. But that may be a period of years where they are printing a lot of red ink."

McKinney enters into the Northern Pacific venture with nearly two decades of experience as a top executive at various air service operators, albeit regional airlines or in the private flying sectors. He formed Float Alaska in order to acquire Ravn from bankruptcy in July 2020. Ravn currently serves 13 Alaskan destinations.

Northern Pacific, he said, plans to begin operations with service from Seoul, South Korea, and the Japanese airports of Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo Narita to Anchorage, with quick connections to San Francisco, Orlando, Las Vegas, New York JFK and Ontario, California.

Operations will launch with a fleet of Boeing single-aisle 757 aircraft. Northern Pacific announced agreements to acquire six 757s in September and McKinney says he has tentative deals for at least six more aircraft. The relatively cheap acquisition cost of 757s compared to newer planes is a key factor in Northern Pacific's plan to connect the US and Asia for less than most competitors.

Northern Pacific aircraft, McKinney said, will have premium and coach cabins, and the carrier also plans to build a lounge at Anchorage Airport.

In the beginning, the airline will cater primarily to customers who will connect immediately from their inbound Anchorage flight to their outbound flight to Asia or the US mainland.

McKinney touted the stopover as an opportunity for flyers to stretch their legs while also making easier entry to the US than they would at immigration stations in more crowded airports. He also said that Anchorage sits within 100 miles of the optimum flight plan for most of the routes Northern Pacific will be flying.

Developing the market for multiday Alaska stopovers, McKinney said, will take some time. Northern Pacific will facilitate excursions for customers who do make such stopovers both through Ravn flights and through a network of partnerships with tour operators and activity providers.

Ravn, which will share an air certificate with Northern Pacific, is already in the major GDSs.

Source: Travel Weekly

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