By Benjamin Pham
Alaska Airlines Reinforces Boeing Aircraft Partnership
The Covid-19 ordeal remains at large while the push for vaccinations continues. This summer holiday travel season was one of the glimmers of hope for the major airlines as they experienced a significant surge in passenger travel demand after a dismal year of reduced flight schedules. In response to the flight reductions, major airlines sent several aircraft to storage or the graveyard for retirement. However, Alaska Airlines sees the dilemma as an opportunity to expand its fleet and inaugurate brand new aircraft received from Boeing.
The Seattle-based airline has set itself on course to ultimately have a firm order to receive 93 aircraft from 2021 to 2024, after announcing its intention to enact options earlier than expected for 12 Boeing 737 MAX 9 variants. Prior to this announcement for aircraft options, the airline initially ordered 68 from Boeing to be delivered from 2021 to 2024, and 52 planes will be delivered between 2023 and 2026 as option aircraft on specific dates.
“We are excited to accelerate Alaska’s growth, building on our solid financial foundation that enabled us to weather the pandemic,” Nat Pieper, Senior Vice President of fleet, finance and alliances, said. “These aircraft are a prudent, long-term investment in our business that we can make while simultaneously maintaining our strong balance sheet.”
The notable American aircraft manufacturer and Alaska built up a partnership for the 737s, which are the airline’s chief powerhouse for its operations and route network. Earlier this summer, the airline’s 737-9s were at the center of attention for participating in Boeing’s Ecodemonstrator program for sustainability and efficiency.
“Boeing continues to be a terrific partner for Alaska. We began flying our first 737-9s this past spring, and we’re extremely pleased with the operational, financial, and environmental performance of the aircraft. The planes are exceeding our expectations from how quiet the engines run to the greater range they provide,” Pieper added.
Alaska will have the opportunity to use the aircraft for its larger route network. Last week, the newly-joined oneworld carrier unveiled new flights from San Francisco – one of its west coast bases – to Mexico’s west coast, operating to three new resort cities to accommodate heavy demand for warmer destinations. At the end of the year, the carrier is scheduled to have 27 total daily departures from California and the Pacific Northwest.
“Our guests are eager to relax, disconnect and have fun, and the places we fly to in Mexico are ideal locations to do that,” said Brett Catlin, Vice President of network and alliances at Alaska “With a total of seven nonstop destinations from the Bay Area this winter, including options from San Francisco and San Jose, tropical paradise is just a few hours away.”
Ultimately, Alaska’s brand new 737-9s will allow the carrier to eventually retire its Airbus A320s in its Airbus fleet family to swiftly shift back to an all Boeing fleet. However, in the meantime, the carrier is strategically using the current situation to stay afloat, restore its route network and enter new markets to expand connectivity.