Alaska Airlines this week ordered even more Boeing 737 MAXs and, in the process, revealed plans to retire most of its Airbus A320 family fleet.
Alaska increases 737 MAX order
Alaska Airlines restructured its contract with Boeing to order a total of 68 Boeing 737 MAX 9s, with an option for 52 additional planes:
- A few months ago, Alaska Airlines had a total of 32 Boeing 737 MAX 9 ordered
- In late November, Alaska Airlines ordered another 13 Boeing 737 MAX 9s, bringing the total order to 45; as part of that agreement, the airline announced plans to sell 10 A320s
- In other words, with this request Alaska Airlines is committing to 23 more Boeing 737 MAX 9s in addition to what was previously requested
The schedule for delivery of the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 has also been revealed. The airline is planning to receive:
- 13 737 MAXs in 2021
- 30 737 MAXs in 2022
- 13 737 MAXs in 2023
- 12 737 MAXs in 2024
Then, the 52 aircraft options will be delivered between 2023 and 2026.
It’s not surprising to see Alaska asking for 737 MAXs more:
- The airline has relatively few planes on order to replace its existing 737s
- The airline probably got incredible terms with Boeing and a lot of flexibility, given the history of the 737 MAX and Boeing’s eagerness to secure new orders
The 737 MAX 9 is the future of Alaska Airlines’ fleet
Alaska will withdraw most Airbus planes by 2023
Arguably more interesting than the increased order for Alaska Airlines ‘Boeing 737 MAX are the implications of that order for Alaska Airlines’ Airbus fleet.
Alaska Airlines acquired its Airbus aircraft through its acquisition of Virgin America and, as it stands, the airline:
- 10 Airbus A319s, which are on average over 13 years
- 49 Airbus A320s, which average more than 10 years
- 10 Airbus A321neos, which average less than three years
While it is rumored that Alaska Airlines would withdraw most of its Airbus aircraft, this is now official. Alaska Airlines has confirmed that it will replace all A319s and A320s with Boeing 737 MAX 9s in mid-2023.
Therefore, while Alaska Airlines will no longer have a fully Boeing fleet, the Seattle-based airline’s fleet will consist exclusively of 10 A321neos.
As explained, the 737 MAX 9 is 20% more fuel efficient than the A320 per seat and can fly 600 miles further.
Alaska Airlines will retire most of its Airbus fleet
Could Alaska do something cool with the remaining A321neos?
While it is highly unlikely that something like this will happen soon, we must ask ourselves if Alaska could possibly do something special with its A321neo fleet. As much as I am sure Alaska would love the consistency of the fleet, it makes perfect sense that Alaska is not retiring these planes, as they are new and fuel efficient.
With a subfota of 10 A321neos, one wonders whether Alaska Airlines could possibly use them in a different way than other planes. For example, could the A321neos possibly be configured for selected transcon flights with a better product on board?
Alaska is the only one not to offer business-class flat beds between New York and Los Angeles / San Francisco. The airline has doubled down on this concept and looks good on giving up the premium market, but could that change?
This is entirely speculation on my part, although 10 A321neos seems like a potentially decent sub-photo to have.
Current Airbus Alaska product
Alaska Airlines increased its order for Boeing 737 MAX 9 to 68 planes, with a choice of 52 more. Planes with a firm order will be delivered between 2021 and 2024. As part of this agreement, Alaska Airlines will also withdraw its A319 and A320 aircraft in 2023 , which means that the only Airbus aircraft the airline will operate will be 10 A321neos.
What do you think of these developments in the Alaska Airlines fleet?