It looks like this startup airline is finally starting up. Northern Pacific Airways was to have launched last year on a business model that mimics Icelandair. The concept was to fly from the lower 48 states to Asia. In case you missed it, I covered the press event at Ontario International Airport for the unveiling of aircraft number 1. You can read that story here. In this post, I will update the launch of this on-again, off-again airline as it finally takes flight.
In The Beginning . . .
Northern Pacific Airways is the latest attempt by Rob McKinney to launch another airline. He has previously taken over the formerly bankrupt regional Alaskan carrier Ravn. Ravn may be a part of this story as I will explain later.
The premise of Northern Pacific was to be a budget carrier from the U.S. to Asia flying from the lower 48 states via Anchorage, AK and then on to Toyko, Japan or Seoul, Korea. The concept was to apply the Icelandair transatlantic model to flying across the Pacific Ocean to Asia.
So what has happened to this upstart airline in the last 13 months? It comes down to bad timing and bad luck. The airline was hit by three major obstacles:
- The collapse of airline travel during the peak of Covid,
- Increasing fuel prices and
- The inability to fly over closed Russian airspace due to the Ukraine war.
The aircraft lack the ability to fly to Asia from Anchorage without flying over Russian airspace.
Last August, Northern Pacific Airways applied to the DOT for authority to fly from Ontario, CA (ONT) to Mexico. Where in Mexico? CEO Rob McKinney applied for a “blanket request” to operate in Mexico but did not offer any specific destinations. However, he said Central America is also on the table, saying, “we ask for more than we need and then figure out the details later.”
At this time, the airline had a maintenance base and flight crews at Ontario airport with aircraft sitting on the ground. The plan was to fly passengers to Mexico destinations during the winter months.
Let’s roll the dice this time and fly to Las Vegas! This time is different, you can actually buy tickets to fly on Northern Pacific Airways. Now the airline will officially take flight and fly a limited schedule between Ontario (ONT) and Las Vegas, NV (LAS). The airline will fly Boeing 757 aircraft with departures to LAS on Fridays and return flights to ONT on Sundays.
The first thing that I noticed is that Northern Pacific Airways tickets are not sold on their website. Not selling tickets on the airline website is not necessarily bad but I do find it a bit odd. The tickets that I found were being sold by OTA websites. They are having to compete with Frontier Airlines for the same market.
The search results show the flights are being operated by Ravn Alaska. It would appear that Northern Pacific is flying under the DOT operating authority of Rob McKinney’s regional carrier, Ravn Alaska. Here are the details of a sample itinerary departing Ontario on June 2, 2023 and returning from Las Vegas on June 4, 2023. In this sample, Northern Pacific Airways does sell cheaper than Frontier Airlines.
I like a good story where the underdog succeeds. Hopefully, this time, Rob McKinney can get the Northern Pacific Airways 757’s off the ground making revenue flights. More competition is always good and the hope is for the airline to expand its limited route map and schedule.