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Alaska Airlines announces $50 million in new capital investments

Alaska Airlines announces $50 million in new capital investments

By Jeff Richardson jrichardson@newsminer.com

FAIRBANKS — Alaska Airlines is planning more than $50 million in new capital investment in Alaska during the next few years, company executives said during a visit to Fairbanks last week.

CEO Brad Tilden, who came to Fairbanks to speak at an Alaska Chamber meeting on Tuesday, said during a News-Miner editorial board meeting that the projects include expanded freight service, a new hangar in Anchorage and terminal upgrades at some remote airports. Specific details are still being finalized for many of those plans, which are expected to occur during the next 2-3 years.

The most far-reaching change for Alaska Airlines will be the introduction of three additional Boeing 737-700 freighters to its statewide fleet.

The retrofitted passenger planes will replace the airline’s existing Boeing 737-400 combi jets, which are configured to share passenger and cargo duties. Those combi jets will be phased out by 2017, Tilden said.

Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ senior vice president of communications and external relations, said it represents a commitment to freight service in rural Alaska, particularly high-volume customers like Red Dog Mine.

“This’ll be an opportunity for us to step up our game from a cargo standpoint,” he said. “We’ll be able to provide dedicated service to big customers.”

The introduction of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to Alaska’s fleet will also require an addition to its Anchorage facilities, Sprague said. The larger aircraft won’t fit in the existing hangar at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, so a new, bigger facility will need to be built to accommodate those planes.

Sprague said plans are still undeveloped, but that the hangar will likely require an investment of several million dollars.

“We need an indoor location for working on aircraft in the state, and Anchorage is the logical location,” he said.

Terminal upgrades are also expected at several locations in rural parts of the state to expand cramped facilities. Alaska Airlines owns terminal buildings in 11 locations in Alaska alongside the state-owned airports.

Sprague said all of those buildings pre-date the 9/11 airline security overhaul, which added more Transportation Security Administration screening to U.S. airports. The terminals scheduled for overhauls include facilities in Deadhorse and Barrow.

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