Alaska Airlines begins flights to Washington, D.C.

Posted: Tuesday, October 09, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Alaska Airlines has begun offering flights to the East Coast, nearly a month after the terrorist attacks.

A nearly full Alaska Airlines 737-700 left Anchorage Monday morning for Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C.

The airline had started service to Ronald Reagan National Airport, located just a few miles south of Washington, D.C., on Sept. 3. Those flights ended when Reagan National was shut down following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Reagan National has reopened on a limited basis, but Alaska Airlines is not among the carriers allowed to use it yet. The airline does not know when it will return to Reagan, company spokesman Jack Walsh said.

The Washington flights generated ''tremendous excitement. So Alaska decided to maintain the service with a daily flight to Dulles, Walsh said. Dulles is about 25 miles west of Washington.

British Airways will handle Alaska's ground duties at Dulles, and Alaska will use that company's gates, Walsh said.

At Reagan, Northwest Airlines had been handling Alaska's ground operations. When Alaska returns to Reagan, it will be flying 737-700s rather than the newer and higher-capacity 737-900s that it had planned to use, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

That change was forced by new flight restrictions, Walsh said. But traffic is likely to be slower than projected, so the 120 seats of a 737-700 may be a better fit for the market.

Systemwide, the percentage of Alaska Airlines seats occupied is in ''the low 60s,'' according to Walsh. That's not much lower than the usual percentage this time of year, he said, but Alaska is flying only 80 to 85 percent of the flights it had scheduled prior to Sept. 11, so traffic is still down from normal.

Cargo traffic is still restricted, Walsh said. The airline can take cargo only from ''known shippers'' -- those that did business with Alaska Airlines prior to Sept. 11, he said.

Last week, Alaska received approval to install three-quarter-inch steel bars on all cockpit doors in its 102 aircraft. The bars are intended to prevent unauthorized entry. The installation should be finished within 30 days, the airline said.

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