FAIRBANKS — Alaska Airlines announced Tuesday that three Bombardier Q400 turboprop planes will mostly replace the Boeing 737 jets that now fly between Fairbanks and Anchorage.
The Q400s, the first propeller planes to be operated under the Alaska Airlines name in Alaska, will increase the number of flights between the state's two biggest cities and allow the 737s to be rerouted to new service between Anchorage and the Lower 48.
Alaska Airlines Regional Vice President Marilyn Romano said passengers won't notice much of a difference when the company switches to the turboprop aircraft in March 2014.
"These planes are really advanced and I think passengers are going to have a very nice travel experience," she said. "Horizon has a lot of these routes in the Lower 48. I've personally have flown on them numerous times."
The Q400s will seat 76 people and have a travel time that's nearly the same as the jet. They'll be operated by 60 Horizon Air employees who will be based out of Anchorage but will be booked and marketed under Alaska Airlines.
The turboprop planes will have outdoor boarding and will be able to be boarded at both the front and rear of the plane.
Fairbanks flyers will still have jet service on the route to Seattle, the seasonal flight to Portland, and on one 737-400 combination cargo and passenger jet flying between Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Romano said the Q400s will cheaper to operate than 737s and offer the airline better flexibility to fill schedule gaps and better cope with lower demand periods.
With flights nine months out, Romano said she couldn't comment on fares but said "our goal by doing this will be to ultimately look at lowering fares in Alaska."
The Q400s will also replace the 737 that flies to Kodiak from Anchorage twice daily seasonally from October through April.
The freed-up 737s will be used for new non-stop routes between Anchorage and Las Vegas and between Anchorage and Phoenix starting in December.
Era Alaska, which currently offers flights on turboprop planes between Anchorage and Fairbanks, did not have a comment on the announcement late Tuesday afternoon.
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 and follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.