Alaska Airlines announced today that Horizon Air, its regional subsidiary, has plans to expand with the purchase of 30 new Embraer E175 jets and options for 33 more. The total value is $2.8B at list price — more than Alaska paid for Virgin America — though no one pays list price for commercial aircraft.
From the press release:
Embraer’s E175 will allow the carrier to fly ‘long, thin routes’ – destinations that are too distant for a turboprop, but currently don’t have enough customer demand to fill a mainline jet. The E175 offers a comfortable cabin that boasts large overhead bins, ample cargo capacity and a forward and rear lavatory.
Horizon Air is wholly owned by Alaska Airlines and generally operates with Alaska flight numbers. For the average customer, there’s no real distinction.
The eventual plan is to retire 15 of the existing Q400 aircraft from Horizon’s fleet after accepting delivery of the E175. So this purchase is about both expanding and upgrading the fleet. There are actually only 51 Q400s in the fleet, meaning Horizon will end up with more of the E175 if it exercises all its options.
That’s a good thing, as the Q400 is not my favorite aircraft. I joked about flying an ATR72 in Cambodia last week, but the Q400
is smaller and noisier (ETA: actually, they have about the same number of seats). Usually it works just fine for quick trips. I take it frequently to Portland and Santa Rosa from Seattle. But a jet would be better, and the E175 is a good fit for longer routes where a turbo-prop just doesn’t make sense.
The E175s will be configured with two classes: economy, Alaska’s new Premium Plus seats with extra legroom and a free drink, and first class.