Northern Pacific Airways (7H, Anchorage Ted Stevens) will focus a business model of using B757 equipment to ferry passengers between North America and Asia with an optional stay in the state of Alaska, an idea the startup has admitted is “wholesale ripping off Icelandair.”

It has secured two B757-200s that were previously in American Airlines’ fleet, its chief executive Rob McKinney told Airline Weekly, and is in talks to acquire six ex-United Airlines B757s and three formerly operated by Icelandair. Bloomberg News claimed that the airline was “using an Icelandair subsidiary, Loftleidir Icelandic, to operate three 757s for its initial Asia service.”

A fleet of 11 aircraft is necessary to account for the ageing jets’ maintenance needs and provide enough spares, McKinney said, to enable the startup to offer daily frequencies on its planned network linking the rest of the United States with North Asia - initially Japan and South Korea - via Anchorage Ted Stevens starting from the third or the fourth quarter of 2022, depending on when Department of Transportation approvals arrive.

However, Árni Hermannsson, CEO of charter carrier Loftleidir, told the Icelandic financial newspaper Viðskiptablaðið that although the two companies had been in talks there had been no agreements nor a declaration of intent.

Northern Pacific Airways revealed last September that it was in talks with Icelandair on possible future cooperation as it was looking to replicate how Icelandair had turned Reykjavik Keflavik into a connecting hub for transatlantic traffic.

The Alaskan carrier plans to offer fares that are 10%-20% lower than on direct flights on the same routes and is talking to Airbus and Boeing about acquiring next-generation aircraft such as the A321-200NY(XLR) or the B737 MAX series to replace the B757s after several years.

Despite travel restrictions still in place across northern Asia, Northern Pacific Airways aims to initially connect Tokyo Narita, Nagoya Chubu, Osaka Kansai, and Seoul Incheon with leisure traffic via Anchorage to Newark, Los Angeles Int'l, Las Vegas Harry Reid, Orlando Int'l, and San Francisco, CA, McKinney told Airline Weekly.

“I unashamedly will admit I am wholesale ripping off Icelandair,” he said, adding that like the Icelandic carrier Northern Pacific plans to promote stopover vacations and is working with the tourism bureaus in both Anchorage and Alaska. “Icelandair has charted the course for us. We will try to incentivise people to stop in Alaska for a few days on the way to Asia, and we have a regional fleet as an advantage.”