Alaska Airlines has firmed up its order for 23 Boeing 737 MAX 9 jets with 15 options. The airline and Boeing initially announced this order back in December as a commitment. As a firm order now, the two parties have locked in their plan for Alaska Airlines to transition more towards an all-Boeing fleet.
Alaska firms up 737 MAX order
Alaska Airlines and Boeing firmed up an order for 23 additional 737 MAX 9 jets. The new agreement also includes options for 15 additional jets.
The 23 MAX 9 jets are scheduled to arrive at Alaska Airlines between 2023 and 2024. The 15 options are for aircraft with delivery dates between 2023 and 2026.
Alaska had previously announced this order in December. However, it was not firmed up until now. The order increased Alaska’s order book to 68 total MAX 9 jets on firm order with options for another 52 aircraft.
Alaska Airlines and the Boeing 737 MAX
Alaska Airlines took its first Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft in January. Revenue service of this aircraft did not occur until March 1st. A second MAX jet entered Alaska’s fleet on March 18th. Another two MAX 9s will start service with Alaska in early April.
Alaska Airlines has only ordered the Boeing 737 MAX 9 currently. These aircraft have room for 178 passengers. There are 16 seats in recliner-style first class, 24 in extra-legroom economy, and 138 in standard economy.
All seats feature access to power, which will be necessary as passengers will need to bring their own devices to access inflight entertainment. Note that, until the fall or winter of 2021, there will be no WiFi offered onboard the MAX 9 fleet. There will be inflight movies on-demand only until Alaska gets the WiFi functional on the planes.
The MAX 9 options are key
All in all, if Alaska Airlines takes all of its orders plus options, including the aircraft on lease commitments, it will fly a total of 120 MAX jets with the firming up of this order.
Historically, Alaska Airlines is known for taking all of its options. Those will be transformative for the airline. If Alaska continues that trend with taking all of its options, it will certainly have a sizable fleet of the planes that could go toward replacing some older Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft.
Alaska’s fleet plan
The Boeing 737 MAX 9s are part of Alaska’s fleet modernization and simplification plan. After merging with Virgin America, Alaska Airlines operated a dual fleet of Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 family aircraft. The long-term goal was always for Alaska Airlines to move away from an Airbus fleet.
At the same time Alaska announced the Boeing 737 MAX order in December, the carrier announced plans to accelerate Airbus retirements. After the crisis hit, Alaska moved to retire all ten Airbus A319s and ten Airbus A320 aircraft. After announcing the MAX order, Alaska announced a further 20 Airbus A320 retirements, bringing the carrier to a total A320 fleet of 21 aircraft.
Those 21 aircraft will remain through 2021 before Alaska continues the pull-down of those jets in 2022 and 2023. Eight A320s will leave the fleet in 2022, and the final 13 will leave in 2023.
The MAX 9s are higher-gauge aircraft, and a single fleet type will improve Alaska’s efficiency, though it will be a few years before deliveries bring the airline to 2019 or higher fleet counts. The airline is excited to fly more MAX jets and fewer Airbus ones. However, Alaska Airlines will still have 10 Airbus A321neos, which have lease expiration dates between 2029 and 2031.