Friday, June 07, 2013

Alaska Airlines responds to complaints about switch to turboprops

Posted: Friday, June 7, 2013 12:00 am

By  Matt Buxton

FAIRBANKS — Alaska Airlines’ announcement to switch from jets to mostly outdoor-boarding turboprop planes for its service between Fairbanks and Anchorage has sent many to the company’s Facebook page to vent their frustration with the change.

“To have us board with inclement weather is a step back in time to the late ’60s and early ’70s,” one commenter wrote.

The outdoor boarding has been the main sticking point for many fliers, with others resorting to stronger words, capital letters and exclamation points in their posts.

“Shame on you AK AIR!!!” another wrote. “I think replacing the 737s with Turboprops is slap in the face to the people of FAI!”

The company has noticed the reaction, Alaska Airlines Regional Vice President Marilyn Romano said. The flights aren’t scheduled to begin until early 2014, and Romano said there are multiple details to be smoothed out before then.

“We know that introducing the Q400 to the state of Alaska represents a change for residents,” she said. “Between now and when flights begin in nine months, we’ll be working out a number of details to address the unusual aspects of flying in Alaska.”

The company’s social media team has been busy responding to nearly every post — even the strongly worded ones — with lengthy explanations of the logistics of the flights.

The posts have responded from everything from the concern of cold cabins — it says they’re “toasty” — and whether child car seats will fit in the new aircrafts’ seats — they do.

Others have been concerned about safety, comparing the Bombardier Q400 to smaller propeller airplanes. The posts assure fliers that the aircraft are “the most advanced turboprop aircraft to have ever been built” and outline the extra safety systems on board.

The responses also have tried to assure fliers that the airline has the equipment needed to safely board older passengers and those with disabilities.

Some responses from Alaska Airlines have dealt with the price of airfare and reiterate the hope “that the lower operating expenses of the Q400 will allow us to lower fares in the future — something we know our Alaska customers strongly desire.”

Some commenters have seemed satisfied with the responses while others remained skeptical, pledging to take their business elsewhere.

Still, Romano said there are things to be worked out before the new flights go into service next year. She said those details would be made public as soon as available.

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