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Monday, January 30, 2023

Northern Pacific Airways: Low Fares between the U.S. and Asia

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A new week has brought the arrival of yet another start-up airline, and this week comes the delightful feature of a new carrier with ambitions to fly between the United States and Asia, with stops in the 49th state.

Northern Pacific Airways, based in Alaska, will shortly begin service as a low-cost carrier creating a new Northwest Passage that will put Anchorage back on the map for travelers. The company was previously known as Ravn Alaska, however it was deregistered and relaunched as Northern Pacific Airways in July 2021.

Connecting with Asia

With the Asia-Pacific region expected to have the highest growth rate of 4.5 percent in the next years, it would make sense for Northern Pacific to focus its low-cost efforts on a region that is undoubtedly high on passengers’ wish lists.

Northern Pacific hopes to use the currently underutilized North Terminal for its flights, as well as to connect popular US destinations like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, and San Francisco with tremendously popular Asian cities like Seoul, Osaka, and Tokyo.

Although Japan and South Korea cover only a small portion of the Asian market, the airline intends to develop further by adding other popular Asian destinations as its fleet grows.

Opening Up Alaska

While flying between the United States and Asia with a stopover in Alaska may not seem like the most frequent choice, similar routes have been taken before, as shown with Copa Airlines and Icelandair.

Copa Airlines collaborated with the Panama Tourism Promotion Fund and the Tourism Authority of Panama to establish the Panama Stopover program in 2019, allowing travelers to explore Panama City while travelling to the United States.

Similarly, Icelandair offers flights between Europe and the United States via Reykjavik in order to attract more visitors to the Icelandic capital.

So Northern Pacific Airways is conducting a Northern Pacific version of what Icelandair accomplished, since Northern Pacific’s Chief Executive Officer Rob McKinney – who is also the Chief Executive Officer of old Ravn Alaska – believes that many people have aspired to visit Alaska.

However, McKinney believes that the high travel costs and isolation of Alaska may have turned many away, which is why he believes that Northern Pacific Airways’ inexpensive tickets and stopovers would undoubtedly help open up Alaska.

“The goal is to inspire people to come here for a day or two and go salmon fishing, or ride a sled dog on a glacier, or simply do things that you can only do in Alaska,” McKinney explained.

An Eye for Boeing

Ravn Alaska used to operate a small fleet of Dash 8s before deregistering – but the propeller aircraft would be impractical for flight services to Asia.

As a result, Northern Pacific is currently looking for a fleet of Boeing 757 aircraft to sustain flight services to Japan and South Korea, similar to Icelandair’s operating model.

However, given the short range of the Boeing 757s and Northern Pacific’s low financial resources, it would explain the initial limited Asian destinations planned.

If the airline sticks with its Boeing 757 fleet strategy and does not upgrade, the start-up may struggle to find long-term success because the Asian market remains virtually untapped.

The start-administrative up’s and regulatory issues are still being worked out, but McKinney is optimistic that it will be ready to fly by the 2022 summer travel season.

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