Travel Tuesday: Boeing Max 737 issues ground prospects for Anchorage-China route
Direct flights from Anchorage to China were once slated to start in the summer of 2019, but an air carrier has yet to announce the new route. Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport Manager Jim Szczesniak says that's because of something beyond anyone in Alaska's control.
"We're unfortunately a victim of the Boeing 737 Max getting grounded," Szczesniak said Tuesday. "We had a couple of routes in the works, the Max got grounded, other airlines called around and basically needed those airplanes and were going to pay, so we didn't ultimately have the airplanes available."
Eurowings did, however, announce plans for direct flights from Anchorage to Frankfurt, Germany, starting next summer.
"The European airlines that were going to be coming here, they already had their set fleets, so it wasn't as much of an issue with the European carriers," Szczesniak explained.
Last year, Gov. Bill Walker's administration announced cooperation with local Chinese government to establish the new route from Anchorage to Harbin, in Northern China. At the time, Szczesniak said the outlook for that flight hinged on whether it could be operated in a cost-effective way.
Right now, Szczesniak says, the numbers look good.
"Our Asian traffic, without the non-stop flights last year, was up 13% and our demand from China was up 65%," Szczesniak said.
On Monday, a Russian company became the first to sue Boeing over the Max 737 grounding. The company's lawyer estimates it is the first of many to come from other Boeing customers.
In June, the Federal Aviation Administration estimated that the Max 737, which has been grounded since March, would be cleared to fly again in December.
As for the Anchorage airport, one runway is currently undergoing renovation, in part, to accommodate larger aircraft.
Szczesniak says that project is on track for completion in October.
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