Northern Pacific Airways may have a trademark battle on its hands before its first flight has even taken off. The Alaska-based startup airline is facing legal action over its name from BNSF Railway, one of the largest railway operators in the US.

The former Northern Pacific Railway now forms part of BNSF’s extensive network, and the company has invested millions of dollars in advertising that makes use of the Northern Pacific brand. In the trademark infringement lawsuit, BNSF claims that the airline must stop its attempts to register that trademark.

Northern Pacific Airways is yet to respond to the lawsuit, which has been filed by Whitaker Chalk Swindle & Schwartz in Texas, on behalf of BNSF.

A Northern Pacific Airways Boeing 757-200 in the hangar

Photo: Northern Pacific Airways

The Northern Pacific Railway – a brief history

The Northern Pacific Railway was a transcontinental railroad, stretching from Minnesota to the Pacific Northwest. Stretching for over 6,800 miles (10,900 km), it was used to transport farm produce and timber, as well as carry passengers.

The railroad became operational in 1883, and in 1970, it merged with other lines to form the Burlington Northern Railroad, which in turn merged with the Santa Fe Railway in 1996, creating BNSF Railway.

Another setback for Northern Pacific Airways

The news of the lawsuit from BNSF comes on the back of a series operational challenges faced by Northern Pacific Airways.

Since its inception, the airline’s goal has been to become “the original connector between Asia and Continental US.” From its hub at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC), it plans to link North America and Asia, via Alaska.

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PLAY Airbus A320

This low-cost connector model is one that we have seen working well for Icelandic airline PLAY, using its hub at Keflavik International Airport (KEF) to connect Europe and North America.

However, with the closure of Russian airspace adding hours onto journey times, the airline is having to look at alternative options to put its Boeing 757s to use, and recently filed for permission with the Department of Transportation to fly between the US and Mexico.

Northern Pacific Airways – an overview

Northern Pacific Airways currently has four Boeing 757-200s in its fleet, with eight more on order. From its Alaskan hub, the airline plans to eventually fly to a number of destinations on both sides of the Pacific, including Tokyo, Seoul, Los Angeles, and New York.

A Northern Pacific Airways promotional photo of its Boeing 757 aircraft

Photo: Northern Pacific Airways

No firm schedules or launch dates have been released for these routes, however, recent reports suggest that the airline’s flights to Mexico could begin by mid-December, followed by its Asia services as early as January 2023.

Like its Icelandic counterpart, Northern Pacific Airways plans to offer passengers the chance to connect quickly onto their onward flight or to spend a few days sightseeing on a stopover in Alaska.

What do you think of the legal action against Northern Pacific Airways from BNSF? What impact, if any, do you think this may have on the airline? Share your thoughts by commenting below.


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