By Charlotte Seet
Northern Pacific Airways: Low Fares between the U.S. and Asia
A brand new week has brought upon the entry of yet another start-up airline, and this week brings the pleasant feature of a new carrier with ambitions to fly between the U.S and Asia, with stopovers in the 49th state.
Alaska-based Northern Pacific Airways is soon to take-off for service, channeling as a low-cost carrier offering a new Northwest Passage that would put Anchorage back on the map for passengers. The start-up was formerly known as Ravn Alaska, which was deregistered and rebranded as Northern Pacific Airways in July of 2021.
With the Asia-Pacific region forecasted for the highest growth of 4.5 percent in the next few years, it would make sense for Northern Pacific to set its low-cost sights on a region that is definitely high on the bucket list of passengers.
Northern Pacific is hoping to use the currently underused North Terminal for its flights, and also aims connect popular U.S cities – such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando and San Francisco – with extremely popular Asian cities such as Seoul, Osaka and Tokyo.
Although Japan and South Korea barely covers much of the Asian market, once the airline’s fleet gets bigger, the airline has plans to further expand by adding in more popular Asian destinations.
Whilst it may not seem like the most common decision to fly between the U.S and Asia with a stopover in Alaska, similar routes has been done before as we’ve seen with Copa Airlines and Icelandair.
In 2019, Copa Airlines partnered with Panama Tourism Promotion Fund and the Tourism Authority of Panama to launch the Panama Stopover program, allowing for passengers to visit Panama City when flying to the U.S.
Similarly, Icelandair also offers flights between the Europe and the U.S. via Reykjavík as a means of attracting higher passenger numbers to visit the Icelandic city.
So what Northern Pacific Airways is doing is quite like the Northern Pacific version of what Icelandair did, as Northern Pacific’s Chief Executive Officer Rob McKinney – who is also the Chief Executive Officer of former Ravn Alaska – believes that many people have been longing to visit Alaska.
However, McKinney felt that the high travel expenses and remoteness of Alaska might have turned people away, which is why he sees that the low fares and stopover offered by Northern Pacific Airways would definitely help open up Alaska.
“The goal is to encourage people to spend a day or two here and go salmon fishing, or go ride a sled dog on a glacier, or just all kinds of things you can only do here in Alaska,” McKinney said.
Prior to deregistering, Ravn Alaska used to operate a small fleet of Dash 8s – but the propeller aircraft would definitely be inefficient for flight services to Asia.
Hence, Northern Pacific is currently eyeing for a fleet of Boeing 757 aircraft that would sustain for flight services to Japan and South Korea, once again similar to the Icelandair operating model.
Given the limited range of the Boeing 757s and scarce finances of Northern Pacific, however, it would explain the initial limited Asian destinations planned.
Should the airline continue with the Boeing 757 fleet strategy and not opt for an upgrade, it might be hard for the start-up to see fruitful success in the long-term as the Asian market remains largely untouched.
Currently, the administrative and regulatory details of the start-up are still being sorted out, but McKinney is hopeful that it will be able to take-off by the 2022 summer travel season.