Featured Map for 7 December 2023:
Alaska Plus Hawaiian Top 20 Routes


Pualani and Chester are happy to announce their engagement! Nuptial date in 12-18 months.
The proposed merger of Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines is old news, having been announced last Sunday (3 December 2023). Today's story melds that announcement with some behind-the-scenes details of Featured Maps. The inspiration of doing these maps was as a way of showcasing features of the Great Circle Mapper, incidentally highlighting topics that might be of interest. It feels like a blog but that was a secondary intent.

Some Featured Maps come together easily. Others involve more work but have some runway so they eventually mature into something that's presentable. Still others seem like a great idea yet lead to terrible maps. (There's quite a rubbish pile of failed Featured Maps.)

The combination of Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines suggested many potentially interesting maps: routes served, airports served, top routes, and more. Routes served was covered in the announcement and includess at least 368 routes, presenting a challenge to discern more than just "lots of places." Maybe airports served, but the announcement noted 138 airports between the combined airlines, yet quite a bit of digging turned up just 137, counting one (Nassua) which won't start until 15 December 2023, with sub-weekly flights from Seattle and Los Angeles. The 138th airport remains a mystery, and featuring a map with such a known discrepancy was unappealing. Top routes had potential sketchy data which was worrisome until a friend pulled better data from Cirium.

So, today's Featured Map uses this Cirium data to show the top 20 routes in the combined Alaska and Hawaiian network, based on planned seats for 2023. (An earlier try using ASMs or Available Seat Miles was dominated by long-haul routes that didn't seem to clearly represent the combined network.) Just two of these routes are flown by both airlines, between Honolulu and the 48 states; these routes are depicted in blue. Three of the top four routes, plus #7, are inter-island routes served by Hawaiian Airlines and are depicted in Pualani's purple. The remaining 14 routes are flown by Alaska Airlines and are mapped in a green that hopefully is appealing to Chester.

The initial map still fell short due to trampled labels and confusing paths. Forcing label locations is a familiar chore so not too difficult, though better label placement is on the site's wish list. The first offender in the "confusing paths" list was San Francisco to New York, a repeat offender since the great circle (er, geodesic) path passes almost directly over Chicago O'Hare. That was the debut problem for Bézier paths and again that tool came to the rescue. Dissatisfaction with the depiction of routes from Alaska's hub at Seattle to both Spokane and San José led to a few more tweaks, which finally led to today's Featured Map.

Hopefully the map provides a useful visualization, but sometimes raw numbers are still appealing. Here are the top 20 routes for the combined airlines with bi-directional seat counts for all of 2023:


References and additional information:



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