A new Alaska-based airline has emerged today, set to operate on a low-cost business model and concentrated on connecting North America with Asia through Anchorage . Named Northern Pacific Airways, the new carrier is looking to sell customers on a Northwest Passage route to spots like Tokyo and Seoul, with a stopover in the 49th state that could prove lucrative for Alaska.

Insider reports that pioneering airlines like Icelandair and Copa Airlines have already proven that the Asia-via-Alaska approach can be successful. Now, Rob McKinney, CEO of both Northern Pacific Airways and its established sister airline, Ravn Alaska, plans to capitalize on Alaska’s strategic location, also.

"Alaska is a unique place that presents all kinds of challenges and people that are not familiar with [it], I think are intimidated by the unique challenges of Alaska," McKinney said. "We're from here, this is where we operate. This is our home."

With Northern Pacific, however, he hopes to do more than transport visitors to and from Asia. Through stopovers, his goal is to encourage customers to see more of Alaska than just a view from the air. Still, he says that flight schedules will ensure that those who don’t want an extended stopover in Alaska will enjoy quick connections.

Through Northern Pacific’s sister airline, Ravn Alaska, McKinney plans to offer package deals that would take travelers further into The Last Frontier. "The goal is to encourage people to spend a day or two here and go salmon fishing, or go ride a sled dog on a glacier, or just all kinds of things you can only do here in Alaska," McKinney said.

Alaska's Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport already serves as a key connection point for flights between Europe and Asia that aim to avoid Soviet airspace. Presently, Anchorage’s North America-to-Asia connections largely come from cargo carriers, who use the airport as a transit stop when transporting cargo across the Pacific.

The pandemic-prompted loss of international carriers from the airport’s North Terminal opened up an ideal spot for Northern Pacific to call its new home, which it plans to renovate with an Alaskan-inspired aesthetic. "We want to make it so that people feel like they're in Alaska, even if they never leave the terminal," said McKinney.

He has Tokyo and Seoul in mind as the nascent airline’s initial Asian destinations and is planning to use Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas and Orlando as U.S. gateways. While Northern Pacific isn’t yet able to announce its fares or specific routes, McKinney says prices will be discounted in comparison with major airlines.

"It's hard to say exactly what the business model is going to look like, but, right now, we're really looking at the Icelandair model because they've been so successful," he said.

Also similar to Icelandair operations, Northern Pacific’s fleet will primarily be powered by Boeing 757s, and McKinney expects to amass a dozen of these aircraft by 2023. Given the 757’s range, the CEO foresees Tokyo and Seoul being the airline’s only destinations until larger aircraft can be added to the fleet.

Northern Pacific now embarks upon a long regulatory process, but McKinney hopes to be able to offer passenger flights in time for the 2022 summer travel season.

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