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Trip Report: Northern Pacific Airways’ First Ever Flight
After lengthy delays caused by geopolitical complications and certification issues, Northern Pacific Airways officially launched its first route on July 14, 2023, flying from Ontario, Calif, to Las Vegas. The first flight, 7H777, took off from Ontario at 2:57 pm and landed 40 minutes later in Las Vegas.
The inaugural was initially slated for May of 2023, and certification difficulties have pushed the date back several times. Although the short hop is far from the transpacific flights connecting the US west coast and Asia the airline has promised, it’s still an incredible feat to achieve nonetheless.
Despite a successful inaugural outbound flight, the airline had to cancel the return flight on Sunday. The plane appears to have run into mechanical issues after sitting 48hrs on the ramp in 115+F degree weather. According to reports, the company attempted to truck in spare parts from Ontario but had to eventually cancel the flight after more than 8 hours of delay. The aircraft departed Las Vegas on Monday afternoon on a ferry flight number back to Ontario.
AirlineGeeks flew on the inaugural flight, and here’s what flying on the world’s newest airline looks like.
Checking in online with the newest airline has been challenging. The website will throw an error after seat selection unless the passenger logs in with the email used for the booking. However, the error message made no effort to point out how to resolve the error.
It also produced two different versions of boarding passes. Passengers can download a Northern Pacific-branded boarding pass. However, the link sent to your phone will show a Ravn Alaska-branded boarding pass, which operates as a separate brand under the same parent company as the Anchorage-based company.
Northern Pacific flies from Terminal 4 at Ontario International Airport. The airport has already installed signs for the airline and put up ads on electronic billboards across the airport. The check-in counter at the airport operates similarly to any other airline. The printed boarding pass had more references to Ravn Alaska than Northern Pacific, which might confuse passengers.
The carrier hosted a small ceremony at the gate. The company’s leadership and the airport authority remarked on the tremendous work that occurred to start the airline. The airline’s CEO, Rob Mckinney, also cut a ceremonial ribbon to celebrate the milestone.
The pair also offered branded totes and themed cookies for passengers on the inaugural flight.
Family and friends of the airline, along with AvGeeks from all over the country, made up the majority of the passengers on this flight. But there was a great number of unsuspecting passengers onboard, too. It was a pleasant surprise to them.
The energy remained high after boarding as many people took photos and videos onboard. Due to an ATC delay at Las Vegas airport, the crew started service on the ground, and the entire cabin toasted to the airline’s success. The fight attendant also jokingly said she’d sign the glasses while picking up the finished ones. Many passengers took on the offer, bringing some fun energy into the cabin while we waited for clearance.
Last but not least, the flight was celebrated by water canons before departing the airport.
The airline may be the newest, but its planes are certainly not. The carrier acquired four American Airlines Boeing 757-200 aircraft retired during the pandemic and refurbished them. The aircraft is now the company’s Alaskan-themed bold new livery. However, the paint job looked rough, with many spillovers along the engine pylon.
The airline kept most monuments from the plane’s American days. Very little has changed from overhead storage to the lavatory, except for a coat of newly applied paint in certain areas. Stickers with their previous owner’s “Main Cabin Extra” branding were still visible in the overhead storage.
The economy seats are likely the same seats that flew with its previous owner as well. However, the new upholstery gave them a much sleeker look and made them more comfortable than the new slim seats. The seats are certainly more comfortable than those of its two competitors on this route, Frontier and Southwest.
The old seat also means there was no seatback entertainment. The good news is Northern Pacific is offering complimentary WiFi onboard. While the cabin attendant specifically mentioned that the WiFi was working in the preflight announcement, I could not get connected. The only offering is the internet at the moment, which is more than enough for the company’s short hop. In addition to offering complimentary Wifi, passengers also have access to USB-C charging on every seat.
It’s also apparent that they still need to finish prepping the cabin. My window shade was very stuck and could only a third of the way up. The airline also marked out some damages on the side panel with painter tapes that the maintenance crew did not have time to take care of before the inaugural. Since it was a daytime flight, we didn’t see the starry skies ceiling the company showed in previous releases.
Inflight service includes a bottle of water, more than some of its competitors on this route.
What does the future hold?
While the airline’s eventual goal is still connecting the US with Asia under its Icelandair model, it has a long way to go.
No matter how short it was, the inaugural is an enormous step to take so the carrier can start working toward its ETOPS certification for its transpacific service. But one weekly service between Southern California and Las Vegas won’t be enough.
Therefore, the company hopes to attract some charter business during the down times of scheduled flights. Its second aircraft will also come online by the end of the month, which will be too many airplanes if there are no other flights.
The company also planned for Saipan Islands service with Northern Mariana Airways branding. However, the Anchorage-based airline felt that plan has since become farfetched following the collapse of Marianas Southern Airways, the regional carrier providing interisland services, and the lack of funding from the government. Therefore, Northern Pacific has shifted back its focus to serving Mexico from its southern California base. The company’s chairman mentioned to passengers that they could serve destinations like Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta both popular Mexican resort destinations.
It takes tremendous work to start an airline. I’d like to congratulate the airline on making its debut on a scheduled route. I’m also looking forward to seeing the airline succeed in realizing its transpacific plans and putting its beautiful Anchorage terminal to use.
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