Delta cuts Juneau back to seasonal service

If you’re planning a trip to Seattle after August, the price of plane tickets may go up. Delta Air Lines is stopping all flights to Juneau next fall, to return in May of 2017.

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(Photo by Heather Bryant, KTOO - Juneau)
(Photo by Heather Bryant, KTOO – Juneau)

The airline competition has meant hot ticket prices, but Delta says the community’s reception has been chilly, so far.

If you booked a flight between September to January through Delta, your chances of arriving in Seattle late were about four out of 10, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That’s about three times Alaska Airlines’ rate.

But Delta’s Vice President in Seattle Mike Medeiros  said that’s not the reason the airline decided to stop its fall and winter flights.

“Had nothing to do with weather. It’s purely commercial nothing to do with the operation,” Medeiros said.

He said, at least on the Seattle side, ticket sales were good.

In Juneau, “Candidly, it’s been poor. And yet we know that folks are traveling. It takes really both points of sale for a market to be successful,” he said.

For about 20 years, Alaska Airlines held a monopoly as Juneau’s only major airline provider. Delta arrived on the scene in the summer of 2014. Then, last year, the company announced year-round service to Juneau.

With the increased competition, ticket prices plummeted — sometimes by half. Medeiros said he knows the community was appreciative.

“However, while they’re appreciative of lower fares … local residents haven’t really supported Delta in a way that we really need them to continue the service,” Medeiros said.

So he thinks Delta dipped its big toe into somewhat tepid water. But travel analyst Scott McMurren said it’s not uncommon for airlines to operate seasonally in Alaska.

Look at larger hubs, like Anchorage, he said.

“Airlines like Condor and Icelandair and jetBlue and Sun Country, Air Canada’s another one. They only come in May and leave in September,” McMurren said.

For the consumer, the downside to all this means ticket sales could fluctuate dramatically.

McMurren thinks prices will spike after Aug. 31 when Alaska Airlines goes back to being the city’s only major airline — at least for the season.

“And the reason I think that is because that’s what happens in Sitka and Ketchikan after Delta stops flying there and Alaska is the only carrier. That’s what happens,” McMurren said.

After August, he estimates ticket prices could jump between 50 to 100 percent.

Medeiros said Alaska Airlines is what’s familiar to the customer base. But he’s not sure why Juneau hasn’t been more receptive to competition.

“There’s an extreme loyalty factor in the state of Alaska because that’s all they had,” Medeiros said.

And — at least next fall and winter — one major airline is all there will be.

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