Volume 18 | March 2021
New destinations, new planes and big happenings in Hawaii!
Spring schedule alert: More transcon flights.
This month, we're expanding our transcon options, adding more flights out of Honolulu – and starting two new daily nonstop flights to our dozens of routes connecting California with destinations across North America.
These new California routes start March 18.
The LAX-AUS flights will increase to three times daily later this spring — and the addition of Austin now gives us 40 nonstop destinations out of LAX.
New longer-range 737-9 joins the fleet.
This month, our newest aircraft — the Boeing 737-9 MAX — begins flying between Seattle and Southern California. The aircraft’s range is up to 300 miles longer than our 737-900ERs, allowing each 737-9 to carry less weight in fuel — and more in cargo. The added range also will minimize the impact headwinds can have on our longer routes.
The first 737-9 flights will begin on the West Coast and eventually expand into transcontinental routes, as well as to Hawaii and Central America. We expect to have 13 737-9s in the fleet by the end of 2021. And up to 68 additional planes are coming over the next four years.
Exciting growth in Hawaii provides new opportunities for freight forwarders.
Each Alaska Airlines flight from Hawaii represents a puzzle solved by our cargo teams. One 737 might hold 200-pound boxes of the islands’ freshest fish bound for markets on the East Coast, alongside a hundred boxes of fragrant basil and crates carrying the pets of military families relocating to new homes. Another might carry island-grown clam seed headed to Pacific Northwest shellfish beds and delicate tropical flowers en route to Disney World in Orlando.
It’s a three-dimensional game of Tetris solved in just an hour, repeated multiple times each day throughout the islands. When an Alaska Airlines flight reaches its gate in Honolulu, Kahului, Kona or Lihue, cargo teams have less than 60 minutes to unload the shipments from the mainland — often bringing in building supplies for Hawaii homes and retail goods headed to local shops — and then efficiently restock the aircraft with outward-bound perishable goods that sustain Hawaii’s economy.
Over the past year, this daily puzzle has grown exponentially larger and more complex. When the pandemic limited all carriers’ flights in and out of Hawaii last spring, demand for cargo space on Alaska Airlines’ flights to Seattle skyrocketed as freight forwarders took advantage of Alaska’s connections to cities across the country. And even when flight service began returning throughout the islands in October 2020, demand for Alaska’s services remained high. Per flight, Alaska carried five times more cargo out of Hawaii in December 2020 than the previous December. Over the entire year, our cargo teams handled a 70% increase in outbound shipments to 30-plus cities across North America.
“We had been used to one to two carts per flight, which is relatively simple to fit,” says Kelsey Rollo, Alaska Air Cargo’s station contract services lead in Honolulu. “Suddenly we had maybe eight carts. It took a lot of coordination between our cargo team and our ramp loading team to learn how to make everything fit in an efficient and safe operation.”
Longtime partners like Commodity Forwarders Inc. and Lynden point to many reasons why they choose Alaska Air Cargo for shipments to and from Hawaii — including seamless connections to the East Coast, expertise in handling perishables and personalized customer service.
Drinking water expedited to remote Alaskan village after devastating fire.
On January 16, 2021, the water plant in the remote Southwest Alaska village of Tuluksak was destroyed by fire. Tuluksak is among the most rural places in the state, with approximately 400 residents and no roads connecting it to nearby villages. It takes two flights to get there from Anchorage.
For more than a month after the fire, Tuluksak had no running potable water. But thanks to the efforts of volunteers — ranging from community activists to Indigenous rapper Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas musical group — bottled drinking water was delivered to the town. And 13,000 pounds of that water arrived via cargo space donated by Alaska Air Cargo.
Alaska Air Cargo carried six pallets of donated water from Anchorage to Bethel, where Ryan Air transported it to Tuluksak. With the state of Alaska and Tuluksak still working on a plan to repair the water plant, Alaska Airlines will be among several carriers exploring how to best support the community over the coming weeks.
Cargo Tips: 3 ways Live Chat can work for you.
Get answers quickly by using Live Chat to connect with a member of our call center team in real time. Here are three ways our team can help you work faster.
Find Live Chat on the Alaska Air Cargo Contact Us page. Our team is here for you between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. PT. Chat with you soon!
Customer Spotlight: Kroger delivers fresh produce to Juneau with Alaska Air Cargo.
Mike Brennan is transportation manager for Kroger’s Fred Meyer and QFC grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest. He works out of Kroger’s almost one-million-square-foot distribution center in Puyallup, Washington. Kroger is the second largest retailer in the United States, and Mike’s job is directing all the outbound delivery of grocery products to approximately 150 stores in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska.
The Lower 48 stores are served by trucks, but it’s a different story in Alaska. Because of distance, weather, topography and roads (or lack thereof), Mike has to navigate multiple transport methods, especially for the capital city of Juneau. “Whenever I talk to anyone,” Mike says, “I make it a point to say we have nine stores in Alaska and one in Juneau. The distribution is so different, the cities are not serviced the same way. You can drive from Washington State, essentially year-round, to the central Alaska locales around Anchorage and Fairbanks, but you cannot drive to Juneau in Southeast Alaska. The only way in is by sea or by air.”
Mike uses a variety of over-the-water transport for most products going to Juneau. But marine transportation is problematic for anything requiring quick delivery, such as fresh produce. With limited barge departures and long transit times, items with short shelf lives are compromised. “It was tough for our Fred Meyer Juneau customers to get fresh produce. The salad dates would be nearly expired on arrival because of the time it takes to get there on a barge, for example. In 2017, we decided to try something new and contracted with Alaska Air Cargo for produce deliveries.”
The air shipments were immediately noticeable, says Mike. “Shipments are delivered same-day or next-day. A customer can now walk into the Juneau Fred Meyer, buy fresh items like berries or lettuce, and take them home and have an entire week to consume them. That just didn’t happen before. Customers would have to use produce the same day they got it and then wait days for another shipment to hit the store. For years when we sent berries to Juneau, it was a 50/50 shot if we were going to be able to sell them. It’s totally the opposite today.”
In the Lower 48, “we take this for granted,” Mike says, “but it’s a huge deal in Alaska, especially items like berries and salad.”
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