ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska Airlines is considering switching from jets to smaller turboprop planes on what it calls its less-trafficked routes to rural Alaska. Airline spokesperson Bobbie Egan says the move could lower operating costs and pass savings on to the consumer.
The airline is looking into using a number of subsidiary Horizon Air's Bombardier Q400 turboprops to serve some Alaska communities, instead of its own existing fleet of Boeing 737 jets. Horizon does not currently fly routes in Alaska, but Egan says the Seattle-based company has made similar switches in the Lower 48.
Horizon's turboprops are being repainted with the "Alaska" logo, accompanied by a smaller "Horizon" logo and an Eskimo.
Egan says it's too soon to know what routes could be affected, and if the companies make the switch it would not happen before the end of 2011.
Alaska Air Group, the company that operates Alaska Airlines, said 2010 was a very good year in earnings reports Tuesday. Fourth-quarter income reached a record of almost $65 million, compared to $24 million during the same quarter last year.
The company also reported a record annual net income of $251 million, more than double what it earned in 2009.
Officials says the company has distributed $92 million in incentive pay to 12,000 workers -- the most it's ever paid. Those bonuses are in addition to others employees receive for meeting the company's on-time and customer satisfaction goals.
The strong financial performance has also prompted Alaska to order 15 new Boeing 737s, most of which are extended-range variants designed to serve longer routes.
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