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Alaska Airlines Unveils Huge Winter Route Expansion…and a Possible Strategy Shift?

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Alaska Airlines added 18 brand new routes to its map Wednesday morning, giving both skiers and sun-seekers something to get excited about. But some of the Seattle-based airline's other route announcements that are raising some eyebrows. 

Among the notable new routes that crisscross the continent (and interestingly don't all fly to or from Alaska's existing hubs) are brand new destinations in Vail, Colorado (EGE) and Monterrey, Mexico (MTY). Alaska also listed La Paz, Mexico (LAP) as a brand new route, although aviation analytics data from Cirium shows the airline operated flights to LAP between 2006 and 2013. Alaska is now the only airline that serves LAP after American abandoned it in 2022. 

When the flights launch on Dec. 20, Alaska will serve the famous Rocky Mountain ski town of Vail from San Diego (SAN) and Seattle (SEA) three times a week on Embraer 175 aircraft. Alaska joins American, Delta, and United in serving the ski destination. 

Down south, Alaska will serve La Paz and Monterrey from Los Angeles (LAX) with daily service to MTY and 2-3 flights weekly to LAP. 

 

Alaska new route map
Courtesy: Alaska Airlines

 

Almost all of these new routes are seasonal for this winter, and signal an interesting winter strategy for Alaska. 

 

More Good News for Skiers and Riders

Last year, I declared Alaska Airlines as “the skier's airline” due to its routes throughout the mountains, its “ski free on the day you land” policy at select ski resorts, and unique partnership with the Mountain Collective ski pass

Now, Alaska is bolstering its skier and snowboarder-friendly route map further. 

Adding Vail (EGE) is huge for skiers dead set on the fancy resort town, but a few other additions caught our eye, too. 

For one, Alaska added a funky, super short route between Boise (BOI) and Bozeman (BZN) – close to world famous Big Sky Resort. Alaska has a ton of traffic into Bozeman, serving the small airport from Seattle (SEA), Portland (PDX), San Diego (SAN), Los Angeles (LAX), Santa Ana (SNA) and San Francisco (SFO), but the addition of Boise gives travelers of that quickly growing metro area a chance to avoid the 6.5-hour drive to Big Sky or the 7.5-hour drive to Bozeman itself. Boise is close to a number of world-class mountains of its own, meaning there's surely a large base of skiers and riders ready to jump on these flights, too. 

 

Big Sky Resort
The intermediate “Ski Time” run at Big Sky Resort.

 

Elsewhere, Alaska added another new daily flight to Reno-Tahoe (RNO), this time welcoming flyers from San Diego (SAN). Alaska runs flights to Reno-Tahoe from Los Angeles (LAX), Portland (PDX), and Seattle (SEA) already, but thinks it can grab even more snow-seekers from southern California this year. 

Finally, the most interesting new route is Alaska's new nonstop from Los Angeles (LAX) to Kelowna, British Columbia (YLW) in Canada. Nestled in the Okanagan region of the Canadian Rockies, Kelowna is just a 2.5-hour drive to Revelstoke Mountain Resort, which is, for my money, the best ski resort on earth. It's also just about 4.5 hours from another Canadian gem, Kicking Horse, as well as nearby lesser-known mountains like Sun Peaks, Silverstar, Big White, Crystal, Red Mountain, and more. 

 

Revelstoke Mountain Resort
This reporter after sampling the powder at Revelstoke Mountain Resort in March 2024.

 

Alaska serves Kelowna from Seattle (SEA) already, but adding this option is a great way to get California skiers up to the mountains they've been hearing about for years. And it beats flying to Calgary (YYC), the next best option, and driving hundreds of miles out to the B.C. Rockies. 

 

Connecting Non-Hubs to Mexico? 

Unless you're an avid skier (guilty…), this is the most interesting part of this new route news. Alaska has operated a typical hub-and-spoke style route network, most frequently running routes to and from its hubs in Seattle (SEA), San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX) and a few other smaller airports. 

With Wednesday's announcement, Alaska signaled that it's interested in exploring running routes that never touch its major hubs – an airline route planning strategy called “point-to-point” flying. It's something that many low-cost carriers like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant do. 

 

Alaska Airlines plane

 

With new routes from places like Kansas City (MCI), Sacramento (SMF), Fresno (FAT) and St. Louis (STL) down to Mexico and with other routes from places like Boise (BOI) and Sacramento to Orlando (MCO), Alaska is clearly dipping its toe into the waters of point-to-point flying during the winter season. 

For one, it's significantly increasing flying from Sacramento (SMF) this winter, adding Cabo (SJD), Tucson (TUS), and Puerto Vallarta (PVR). There's also a Fresno (FAT) to Guadalajara (GDL) flight – the first international flight from FAT on Alaska. Mexican carriers Aeromexico and Volaris also run that route. 

The most interesting new point-to-point routes come from Kansas City (MCI) and St. Louis (STL). Alaska is running once-a-week flights to Puerto Vallarta (PVR) from both cities and to Cancún (CUN) from Kansas City (MCI). 

 

Hyatt Ziva Cancun Aerial
The Hyatt Ziva Cancun

 

Currently, American, Frontier, and Southwest all run nonstop flights from MCI and STL to CUN, but Alaska will be the first to fly to PVR from Kansas City or St. Louis.

Finally, Alaska will also run its first international flight from New York (JFK) this winter when it launches JFK to PVR on Jan. 8. 

Read next: New Airline Routes: The Secret to Cheap Flights & Award Availability 

 

All of Alaska's New Routes

Here are all of the new routes Alaska announced Wednesday for the upcoming winter season. 

 

Alaska new route chart
Courtesy: Alaska Airlines

 

Just a few days prior, Alaska announced the following two Mexico routes from Los Angeles (LAX) as well. 

 

Alaska new Mexico routes
Courtesy: Alaska Airlines

 

 

Bottom Line

Alaska Airlines added 18 new routes to its map this week with something to love for both skiers and beach-goers this winter. 

Interestingly, Alaska added some unique routes that don't fly from its normal hubs, signaling the airline's willingness to try something other than the usual hub-and-spoke model of airline scheduling for the winter season. 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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