Alaska Airline’s kiosk at the Bellingham International Airport July 9, 2019. // Photo by Zack Jimenez
By Colin Rice
In a recent public statement, Alaska Airlines announced the cancellation of seasonal flights out from Bellingham International Airport to their Kona and Maui destinations in Hawaii.
Many residents are not happy by the surprise temporary shut down of the routes.
“Our family is very upset that Alaska has cancelled their direct flights from Bellingham to Maui,” Susan Murray, a Bellingham resident said. “We try to have a family vacation once a year.”
According to a statement given to the Bellingham Herald, Alaska Airlines spokesperson Tim Thompson elaborated that the route change will keep flight fares more affordable.
“We know our Bellingham guests have enjoyed this service but we routinely adjust our schedules to ensure we’re flying the routes that make the best sense for our guests and our company,” Thompson said, “This adjustment will help us fly more efficiently and keep our fares affordable for our guests.”
It was also released by Thompson that tickets already purchased will be fully refunded with discounted services to Kona and Maui, but include a stop to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Some reactions from the community on social media such as Facebook and Nextdoor has been negative and critical of the airline’s decision, with suspicion of pulling out of the Bellingham market and airport entirely. Along with Alaska Airlines cancelling the two destinations, Alaska Airlines users have also seen other destinations shut down, such as in Mexico and San Diego.
“That flight, along with the non-stop flights to Cancun, were both cancelled,” Laurie Brown, a Bellingham resident said, “They were both very popular flights that were affordable for midwinter getaways.“
Not only have families been affected, but also college students living in Bellingham. Social media has boosted with people posting more at other airports, and while there is a blanket over Bellingham International.
Another group of people that this issue has brought attention to are seniors, which are the main demographic for commercial and business travel flyers.
“We are seniors and the direct flight was a blessing, we can’t even figure out how to get to Maui for our next trip and have given up,” Murray said. “Flying out of Vancouver is an option but not one I even want to consider; I am so mad at Alaska Airlines, I have PM’d them, I have posted on Facebook and I am hoping they will change their minds.”
The Port of Bellingham’s comprehensive annual financial report has shown Bellingham’s airport is on a downward slope, as flying out to some destinations has been more difficult over the past few years.
In the comprehensive annual financial report, the airport has already struggled to bring in more traffic, from 2013’s reported 592,753 people enplaned down to 375,463 in 2018. The airport’s budget has also dropped over $1.4 million within the last five years.
Other airlines such as Allegiant Air provide flights at discounted prices to popular destinations such as Las Vegas.
“If Alaska doesn’t like it here, we’re hoping we can lure another airline,” Angie Scofidio, a Bellingham resident said. “Our airport here is great, so easy to access and so convenient.”
In such a competitive market both local and regional, Alaska Airlines looks to compete with Virgin Airlines taking over Paine Field and the larger airports at Seattle-Tacoma and Air Canada up in Vancouver, Canada. But Bellingham International Airport, is also offering more discounted services using airlines, such as Allegiant Air, to go to locations such as Anchorage and other regional vacation spots.