Alaska Airlines and Boeing have secured an order of 52 737 MAX planes, including rights for an additional 105 jets—the largest order in the carrier’s history.
The new planes, set to be delivered between 2024 and 2027, will grow the airline’s fleet from 94 to 146 737 MAX aircraft. As noted by Alaska Airlines, the new order includes the 737-8, -9, and -10 variants.
The airline adds that by selecting these three variants in the MAX family, operations will “shift between 737 MAX models as appropriate.” Alaska Airlines, which currently operates a dual Airbus and Boeing fleet, is on a short-term project to return to its roots of running a Boeing-exclusive fleet.
Following Alaska Airlines’ merger with Virgin America in 2016, the airline inherited more than 70 Airbus A319/320/321 jets, of which 31 are still in operation. With the addition of the 52 Boeing 737 MAX jets, the airline plans to save up to $100 million annually by operating a single fleet of 737 jets.
“This investment secures aircraft to optimize our growth through the next decade, which we know will be a formidable competitive advantage,” said Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci. “We’re proud of the strong financial foundation that uniquely positions Alaska to make this commitment to our future and of the fantastic partnership we share with our hometown aircraft manufacturer at Boeing.”
According to Boeing, at current production and delivery rates, Alaska Airlines will receive a factory-fresh 737 MAX every ten days starting next year.
Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, insists that the 737 MAX is ideal for Alaska Airlines as it “offers environmental performance and flexibility to expand service across its route network.”
This new commitment from Alaska Airlines adds to Boeing’s successful year in sales. During the Farnborough Air Show in July, the planemaker secured a significant order for 100 737 MAX 10 jets from Delta Air Lines—a powerful endorsement from the Atlanta-based carrier, which had been reluctant to order from Boeing for more than a decade. Last year, Boeing also scored orders from United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.
As the Charleston-based planemaker struggles to meet its end-of-year 737 MAX 10 certification deadline by the FAA, the plane continues to have more than 900 orders and commitments worldwide.
Airlines continue to rely on Boeing to certify the 737 MAX 10 under the same specifications as the preceding variants. However, with the plane being longer and heavier than the MAX 8 and MAX 9, some pilot-alerting systems might have to be added to the aircraft’s flight deck, inherently adding training requirements that will make fleet commonality impossible, therefore, more expensive to operators.
However, Alaska Airlines and Delta have noted that they rely on Boeing to devise a solution. If the certification doesn’t go through, both carriers will likely swap the MAX 10 orders for MAX 8 and MAX 9.
With the addition of these new planes into the airline’s fleet—and transitioning from a hybrid Airbus/Boeing operator into an all-Boeing 737 airline—Alaska Airlines should position itself in a prime position to compete against the upcoming JetBlue/Spirit merger. JetBlue stands right behind Alaska Airlines in terms of domestic market share. Post-merger, the Long Island-based carrier should surpass Alaska Airlines.