How Alaska and Jetblue’s Mergers Could Reshape the Domestic Airline Industry

Airline consolidation is not only relatively common but necessary for growth and competitiveness, and the recent announcement of Alaska Airlines’ planned acquisition of Hawaiian Airlines is a prime example of this trend.

The move, valued at $1.9 billion, signifies more than just a business transaction. It represents a strategic positioning for future growth in a highly competitive, highly concentrated sector.

Once the deal is completed, Alaska and Hawaiian will have a combined market share of approximately 8.2%, making it the fifth-largest U.S. airline—unless JetBlue Airways succeeds in getting regulatory approval to acquire rival low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines. More on that later.

domestic market share

Alaska’ offer to purchase Hawaiian for $18 per share—today it’s trading under $14—includes taking on $900 million in debt, but the potential advantages are substantial. The Washington State-based carrier not only gains a significant foothold in the lucrative, $18 billion Hawaii market but also achieves several strategic benefits:

  • Capacity Rationalization: The deal allows for better competition with Southwest Airlines by rationalizing capacity between the West Coast and Hawaii.
  • Fleet Expansion and Flexibility: Alaska will acquire widebody aircraft for long-haul flights and increase fleet flexibility for varied route options.
  • Enhanced Network Utilization: The merger promises improved utilization of large narrowbody aircraft within the combined networks.

The announcement sent Hawaiian’s parent company shares soaring 193% on Monday, reflecting the market’s optimistic view of the deal. This positive reaction underscores a broader trend in the airline industry, where smaller players seek mergers to stay competitive against larger rivals.