Alaska Airlines Swaps A320s For 737 MAXs

Filed Under: Alaska

Alaska Airlines has announced that it’s trading in some A320s for 737 MAXs… yay?

Alaska picking up 13 737 MAXs, trading in 10 A320s

Alaska Airlines has entered into an agreement with Air Lease Corporation (ALC), which will consist of two parts:

  • Alaska will sell 10 A320 aircraft to ALC, though will lease the planes from ALC for a short period after the transaction closes
  • Alaska will lease 13 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft from ALC, which will be delivered between the fourth quarter of 2021 and 2022

Alaska Airlines is getting more 737 MAXs

This announcement comes days after the US Federal Aviation Administration said it would unground the 737 MAX, after the plane was grounded globally in March 2019.

This transaction is part of Alaska’s attempt to optimize its mainline fleet. It’s noted that the 737 MAX aircraft are 20% more fuel efficient per seat than the A320s they’re replacing, and they also have an additional 600 miles of range, opening up new nonstop routes.

Here’s how Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden describes this decision:

“Alaska’s relationship with Steve dates back to the early 1980s and we’re thrilled to work with him and ALC on an agreement that will enhance our fleet and advance our environmental, operational and financial performance. We found an opportunity to sell 10 planes that are not in our long-term plans and replace them with 13 of the most efficient narrow-body aircraft available.”

How this fits into Alaska Airlines’ overall strategy

If you ask me, swapping A320s for 737 MAXs isn’t exactly great for customers — Airbus narrow bodies are more comfortable, and that doesn’t even get at the stigma associated with the 737 MAX.

That being said, this decision ultimately makes sense. Alaska Airlines used to operate an all-Boeing fleet, and then it took over Virgin America, which operated an all-Airbus fleet. It sure seems like Alaska is working to eventually become an all-Boeing airline again, though the timeline for that remains to be seen.

How does this decision contribute to that direction?

  • Alaska Airlines currently has 49 A320s and 10 A321neos, so once this deal is concluded, Alaska will be down to 39 A320s and 10 A321neos; Alaska’s A320s are an average of 10 years old
  • Alaska Airlines has 32 737 MAX 9s on order, which are expected to be delivered starting in early 2021; this transaction means that Alaska Airlines will have up to 45 737 MAX 9s on order

Alaska is inching closer to being an all-Boeing airline

Bottom line

Alaska Airlines has entered into an agreement that will see the airline selling 10 A320s and then leasing 13 737 MAX 9s. While airlines have an uphill battle with the 737 MAX, this move ultimately makes sense for Alaska. The airline has been moving towards an all-Boeing fleet, and this gets the airline one step closer to that.

What do you make of Alaska’s Airbus & Boeing plane swap?

  1. Proudly flying American-built planes. Aww, the heart of a Trumpster American must have experienced mild form of palpitations and arrhythmia

  2. The entire Airbus fleet at AS will be phased out and quickly, including the 10 brand new A321s, which will just become an odd-ball in the fleet and add cost and complexity to operations. This is all about cost and fleet simplification and comes at no surprise. That said, I personally will never fly a MAX, having done so once 6 weeks before they were grounded in 2019 and that was enough.

  3. “Alaska’s plan is to eventually go back to being all-Boeing airline”

    Really? I thought Mgmt has said a couple of times that the A321s perform a unique mission now and will likely in the future.

    Maybe all boeing again when there is a true new 757 NG a/c available

  4. Regarding the headline “the US Federal Aviation Administration said it would unground the 737 MAX”, I want to point out that word “Ungrounded” is an adjective meaning
    1: not based in fact
    2: not electrically connected by a wire to an electrical ground.
    While there is a verb “to ground”, there is no official verb “to unground”.

    I wish journalists and bloggers would stop inventing words when there are perfectly good words to describe something.

    BTW hat the FAA did was re-certify the 737MAX

    I will now get off my linguistic soapbox:-)

  5. It’s a shame what Alaska is doing with the Virgin A320s which used to be one of the most comfortable planes to fly cross-country in economy. First they reduced the pitch, squeezing in more seats and eliminated live TV. Now they going to replace these planes with a larger even more crowded model.

    No way I’m flying Alaska transcon any more

  6. It’s hard to be happy about something like this because we have a case where a new plane is NOT a “nice, new plane”. In fact, it will be a downgrade for passenger comfort. I understand how AS is looking at this from a dollars-and-cents viewpoint and it is a frugal move for them. The MAX is cheaper than a new Airbus, it is more economical than an old Airbus and therefore it seems like a great business move. Can’t argue with that logic.

    Except, it’s also an uncomfortable aircraft that has a dubious history. It’s the one aircraft model that some people will go out of their way to avoid. For multiple reasons. In my case, I will avoid it because I don’t want to get DVT in the high density configuration that most of these are coming off the line with. And, you always have to wonder about an aircraft that’s aerodynamically out of balance under some conditions. All told, it’s a case of screwing the customer to save some money.

  7. So, they basically replacing excellent planes with troubled planes (to say the least), which the European Union still refuse to certify??

  8. Not to Alaska Airlines management…. you just lost a customer as I WILL NOT step foot on board one of these planes! One of these things go down with AS colors and the company as well as the Boeing company are good as gone! RIDICULOUS!

  9. The comments on this are tired and lame. If anybody actually had idea of technicalities behind the MAX then some of this comments won’t be warranted

  10. Anyone that thinks the max is front heavy should look at the A320’s they are also front heavy. I personally be happy if all aircraft had either 3 or 4 angle of attack sensors, but that’s just me. Pilots should be able to know when not to trust the instruments and be able to overrule the computer. I am not sure that’s possible with airbus.

  11. As an ex VX employee, I always thought this merger was not a great fit, aircraft-wise. The other bidder, JetBlue should have prevailed. Everyone at both carriers knew it was just a matter of time to retire our sexy Airbus for their boring Boeings.

  12. Must have got an amazing deal from Boeing but down the road it will be a bad decision as the majority of the people are afraid to fly the MAX.

  13. For those of us that travel with our dogs, the A320’s lack of dog space is painful and frustrating. Seeing Alaska move to more 737s will be applauded by us and many of our friends.

  14. @Paul
    People are dumb.

    They don’t know if they’re flying on a 737,A320, or CRJ. They just know “big plane good, small plane bad”.

    What people say about flying on 737MAX’s is going to be divergent of what people will actually do. Very few if any will truly refuse to fly on a MAX.

  15. What’s the word I want to use about AS… not “disappointed”… but “unimpressed”. They could have used the VX acquisition to become something grander. Instead, they are just shrinking back to their PNW comfort zone and the all-Boeing nonsense. I like Boeing aircraft, but the 737… its day has come and gone.

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