Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Alaska Airlines and the Birther Movement

Alaska Airlines continues to challenge the "citizenship" of Virgin America and Virgin America last week reportedly asked the Dept. of Transportation to deny Alaska Airlines' petition and to terminate the case.

With citizenship at issue, the dispute sort of reminds me of the birther movement, which questions whether President Obama actually was born in the U.S.

Foreign ownership of airlines is an important issue, but to both Alaska Airlines and the birther movement, I say: Get over it.

Alaska alleges that Richard Branson unlawfully controls Virgin America, which counters that Alaska's allegation is based on erroneous press reports.

Apparently, Alaska isn't keen about the new competition it faces from Virgin America on Seattle to Los Angeles and San Francisco routes.

I think Alaska should focus on becoming a better airline instead of seeking to get a competitor banned.

I haven't flown Virgin America yet, but everyone I know who has flown the airline has raved about the experience, especially the on-board Wi-Fi.

The Los Angeles Times notes that the entire U.S. airline industry is engaged in a big push to install Wi-Fi.

Various business models for the service are emerging and will continue to unfold as carriers seek a proverbial competitive edge and to increase their revenue from ancillary services.

Meanwhile, Virgin America continues to make inroads, marketing the Virgin America difference.

Do all Virgin America flights offer Wi-Fi?

Virgin American said all of its jets were expected to have Wi-Fi service three months ago.

At Alaska, meanwhile, Wi-Fi-service availability is a crapshoot, and here is the airline's answer about the issue.

Alaska's website states: "We do not know in advance which aircraft will be flying which routes so we cannot say for certain you will or will not have Wi-Fi on your flight. Aircraft are being modified as quickly as possible but it will take more than a year before all aircraft have Wi-Fi capability. You will know an aircraft has Wi-Fi onboard when you see a special mark near the boarding door or on the side of the airplane."

I would rather see Alaska Airlines focus on beating Virgin America in the marketplace than in trying to force its ouster at the DOT.

In that way, Alaska passengers won't have to engage in reconnaissance missions to find the Wi-Fi "special mark" near boarding doors.


Casey said...

I think Alaska Airline's Twitter feed actually says which flights have WiFi.. though I could be confusing it with SouthWest.

Dennis Schaal said...

Casey: Southwest doesn't offer Wi-Fi yet, and I don't see anything easily accessible on that identifies routes with Wi-Fi access. Perhaps there was a tweet, but not anthing that I or a traveler could readily find.

Nick said...

I completely agree that Alaska should concentrate on their own operation rather than complaining about Virgin America.

In their defence though they do have 116 planes to fit with wi-fi compared to Virgin America's 28 (according to Wikipedia).

So I can understand why they aren't able to implement it overnight. I think jetBlue and Southwest have even more limited wi-fi trials but Southwest in particular are good about PRing what they do (however limited it is in reality).