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Some in Fairbanks piping hot over Alaska Airlines turbo-prop plane swap

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

Fairbanks, a community long-cited for its tough-as-nails residents and unimaginably frigid temperatures, is up in arms about Alaska Airlines’ plans to swap from jets to mostly outdoor-boarding turbopop planes for its service between the Interior city and Anchorage.

Fairbanks residents have taken it upon themselves to bombard the airline’s Facebook page. Their responses are a mix of anger, confusion and attempts at bargaining with the company.

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“I’m extremely saddened to see that Alaska Airlines has chosen to downgrade their service between (Fairbanks and Anchorage airports) by switching out the 737s to the Q400,” Robert Gray wrote on Facebook. “It’s very obvious that Alaska Airlines has made a corporate decision based on the almighty dollar -- Switch [sic] aircraft types and keep the same fare costs or (gasp) even raise (them) under the guise that the Q400 is a ‘newer or state-of-the-art aircraft.’”

Susan Parson commented that she felt betrayed by Alaska Airline’s decision.

“I would like to see the people that made that decision board flights this winter at -40 degree [sic] below when we have to board outside. Before, I felt like AK Airlines was the premier airlines to choose from but now I feel like I might as well fly Frontier and I don’t have to pass through security. Too bad you don’t value the customers that have been your bread and butter for so long and really listen to us!”

Three Bombardier Q400 planes will mostly replace the Boeing 737 jets that now fly between Alaska's two biggest cities, beginning next March, the Associated Press reported. Q400s also will replace the 737 that flies to Kodiak from Anchorage twice daily from October through April.

The company is freeing up the jets for new routes between Anchorage and the Lower 48.

The turboprops seat 76 people and have nearly the same travel time as the jet. They'll be operated by Horizon Air employees but booked and marketed under Alaska Airlines, the AP reported.

Vice President Marilyn Romano told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner she had noticed the Fairbanks’ negative reaction to the planned switch. The flights are not scheduled to begin until early 2014, and details still need to be smoothed out, she said.

“We know that introducing the Q400 to the state of Alaska represents a change for residents,” Romano 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.”