Alaska Airlines Jan-2010 pax up 5%, load factor up 6 ppts
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Alaska Air: the airline's network diversification continues ahead of closing Virgin America merger
During the next couple of years Alaska Air Group faces one of the most important milestones of its 84-year history with the presumed approval and closing of its merger with Virgin America, followed by the complex integration of the two companies.
Alaska has not offered capacity guidance for 2017, but its mainline fleet is projected to grow by just a single aircraft as it completes the phase-out of its Boeing 737-400 Classics. Its regional subsidiary Horizon begins deliveries of Embraer 175s in 2017, which could drive most of the group’s capacity growth for the year. But it is likely that Alaska is aiming to grow total ASMs below 2016’s increase of 8.5%.
As it prepares to close on its acquisition of Virgin America Alaska is continuing its stand-alone network evolution that includes capitalising on loosened operating restrictions at Newark airport, which helps the company bolster its position on the US east coast. Alaska is also targeting more midwestern markets in 2017, one feature of its efforts to diversify its offerings during the last few years.
Logic dictates approval of Alaska-Virgin America merger; anti-trust hawks loom large
A pushback in the closing date of the merger of Alaska Air Group and Virgin America – to allow the US government more time for its review of the transaction – created some jitters among investors about the eventual approval of the tie-up, evidenced by a drop in Virgin America’s stock price, which had soared after the deal was tabled in Apr-2016.
Despite the extra time regulators are taking to review the merger, a full-blown rejection of the deal is unlikely given the drastically smaller scope created by Alaska and Virgin America. Indeed, the combined airline creates a more viable entity to compete with the mega-carriers created by previous mergers; not a threat to consumer choice.
Close scrutiny by US regulators was always expected, as are some form of concessions in order for the agreement to ultimately gain the government’s approval. The form those concessions could take has spurred significant speculation from slot divestitures to the relinquishment of gates. Perhaps the key for Alaska is ensuring that the composition of those concessions does not compromise the economics of the transaction.