Alaska Airlines to introduces Boeing 737s in service to Sonoma County Airport

Alaska Airlines will soon introduce a Boeing 737 to its lineup of planes flying to the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.

Starting on Oct. 6, the airline will fly a Boeing 737 daily between the Santa Rosa-based airport and Seattle, the hub for Alaska’s fleet.

The plane will replace the smaller Embraer E175 twin-engine jet model used currently on the same route.

“Seattle is a congested airport and Santa Rosa is a market that does well and runs high load factors (number of passengers flying),” Ray Lane, an Alaska Airlines spokesperson, wrote in an email. “Adding a 737-800 aircraft on this route allows us to add seats while also relieving some of the congestion in Seattle.”

Lane said the switch is mainly intended to ease congestion at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and does not have much to do with the pilot shortage affecting airlines nationwide.

“We have a lot of air traffic at SEA and it can slow operations of all airlines at times,” Lane said.

The Boeing 737 seats 159 passengers, while the Embraer E175 holds 76 seats.

This will not be the first 737 flying to and from the Sonoma County Airport.

Avelo Airlines already flies 737s in and out of the airport for its routes to Burbank and Las Vegas, said Jon Stout, Sonoma County’s airport manager. Avelo Airlines can seat 189 passengers – 30 more than Alaska Airlines – on its 737 because the airline does not offer class seating like first class, Stout said.

“Under the (Federal Aviation Administration) the airport can handle that aircraft,” Stout said of the regulations governing the airport’s traffic.

The airport’s runways were extended in 2014 under a $ 55 million upgrade meant to fulfill federal safety mandates and attract more commercial air service. The main runway is now 6,000 feet, the size required for most regional jets.

The move by Alaska Airlines comes as the Sonoma County Airport continues to see traffic numbers rebound from their drop earlier in the pandemic.

In July, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Avelo Airlines collectively flew 61,099 passengers through the Sonoma County airport, up 24.9% from a year earlier and up from 57,966 in June, according to airport officials.

Alaska Airlines in July flew 34,389 passengers through Santa Rosa, up 12.1% from a year earlier. The airline’s load factor – the measure of how full airplanes are on average – was 83%.

American Airlines last month flew 13,857 passengers through the regional airport, up 11.3% from a year earlier. American’s load factor was 77%.

Burbank-based Avelo Airlines in July flew 11,079 passengers through the airport, up 90.8% from July 2021. Its load factor was 64%.

United Airlines flew 1,534 passengers through the facility last month, with a load factor of 49%.

And Aha Airlines, the leisure carrier based out of Reno-Tahoe International Airport, that launched its Santa Rosa flights on July 14, flew 240 passengers through the remainder of the month. Aha had a load factor of 40%. It declared bankruptcy earlier this week and announced it would suspend all service.

Noise from passing planes has long been a point of contention for residents in nearby communities, including in Windsor, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol.

The airport has received 232 complaints since the start of 2022, according to the latest monthly noise report, released in May. Of those 232 complaints, 63 were placed in May, the highest number over a monthlong period. The complaints came from 26 individual commenters.

The 737 is the largest commercial plane in use at the Sonoma County Airport, according to a noise report released in May, but Stout said he expects Alaska Airlines’ 737 will not be any louder than the planes already operating at the airport.

The 737-800 reaches 72.5 to 73 decibels, and the Embraer E175s reach 67 to 68 decibels, Stout said.

You can reach Staff Writer Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or emma.murphy@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MurphReports.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.