Air Transport World

The un-Regional: Horizon Air is a throwback to the days when Regional carriers were largely independent of their big-airline partners. (In Seattle).(Statistical Data Included)(Company Profile)

What defines a Regional airline? In the US and Canada, Regionals' route networks tend to be tightly integrated into their Major airline partners' systems with and emphasis on hug connectivity. They typically list their flights under the Major's code, paint their aircraft in the colors of their partners and share at least part of the larger airline's name--think Delta Connection, United Express, American Eagle. Most have adopted or are in the process of migrating to fee-for-departure agreements under which the Regional operates the aircraft under a fixed-price contract while the Major takes care of sales, marketing and reservations functions and bears the financial risk.

Now consider Horizon Air. At first glance it appears to fit the description. It operates regional jet and turboprop equipment exclusively, is owned by Seattle-based Alaska Air Group, the parent of Alaska Airlines, and maintains a codeshare relationship with the Major. That's Where the similarity ends, however.

For starters, Alaska Air Group did not require Horizon to shed its identity, which dates back to its formation in 1981. Although it has been a unit of AAG since 1986, its aircraft operate in their own livery, it maintains its own sales, marketing and reservations functions, and it assumes a significant share of financial risk in the codesharing relationship. "There's not another Regional we can adequately compare to. We can only compare ourselves to ourselves," says President and CEO Jeff Pinneo, who assumed the top position last January after spending more than 20 years at AAG including 10 years as Horizon's VP-customer service. "It's a function of design around the hand we've been dealt."

George Hamlin, senior VP at Washington, D.C.-based Global Aviation Associates, believes the role Horizon play has "a lot to do with the geography and the population density they serve in the Northwest portion of the US, where there are few large cities besides Seattle, Portland and Spokane. …

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