Alaska Airlines will end its once-daily non-stop service from Albuquerque International Sunport to Orange County and the San Francisco Bay Area early next year.
The airline confirmed Thursday that it’s eliminating its daily flights, with the last ones scheduled for Jan. 6. The flight to Orange County’s John Wayne Airport began in August 2017; service to San Francisco International Airport started a month later.
Both routes are operated by Horizon Air, a carrier for Alaska Airlines, on 76-seat Embraer 175 jets.
Alaska started service to Albuquerque from Seattle in 2014, and now has six daily flights to Orange County, San Francisco, Portland and San Diego.
Nyika Allen, the city’s aviation director, said the primary reason the flights will be discontinued is that they failed to hit passenger level targets to make the service economically viable. “Airlines like Alaska are looking at 85 percent load factors,” said Allen. “If the routes are underperforming, it makes all the business sense in the world” for them to make these service adjustments.
Ray Lane, operational communications manager for Alaska, said in an email statement, “We keep close watch on our operation. We’re constantly evaluating. If there are routes that don’t perform very well over time, we need to make changes.”
Looking at the Alaska portfolio as a whole, the airline is “pleased with the performance of its other routes out of Sunport,” Allen said. “We are looking forward to working closely with Alaska on securing additional routes that add value to their portfolio and our market.”
The only other carrier flying to the San Francisco area is United Airlines. Southwest serves Orange County seasonally, but only on weekends.
Allen underscored the importance of New Mexicans supporting new routes as they enter the Albuquerque market, as each is an opportunity for growth in the economy. “Supporting these routes, new destinations in particular, is a critical component to keeping a diverse portfolio of airlines and destinations in Albuquerque,” she said.
City and chamber of commerce officials recently hailed the economic upside to a new carrier entering the market. Volaris airlines is beginning direct service to Guadalajara, Mexico, on Nov. 17.