Alaska Airlines’ Airbus Fleet Retirement Plans

Alaska Airlines has ordered even more Boeing 737 MAXs this week, and in the process has revealed plans to withdraw most of its Airbus A320 family fleet.

Alaska increases 737 MAX order

Alaska Airlines has restructured its agreement with Boeing to book a total of 68 Boeing 737 MAX 9s with the option of 52 additional aircraft:

  • A few months ago, Alaska Airlines had a total of 32 Boeing 737 MAX 9s on order
  • At the end of November, Alaska Airlines ordered a further 13 Boeing 737 MAX 9s, bringing the order total to 45; as part of this agreement, the airline announced plans to sell 10 A320s
  • In other words with this order Alaska Airlines is committing to a further 23 Boeing 737 MAX 9s in addition to what had previously been ordered

The timeline for Alaska Airlines’ 737 MAX 9 deliveries has also been revealed. The airline plans to take delivery of:

  • 13,737 MAXs in 2021
  • 30,737 MAXs in 2022
  • 13,737 MAXs in 2023
  • 12,737 MAXs in 2024

Then there are the 52 flight options for delivery between 2023 and 2026.

It’s not surprising to see Alaska order more 737 MAXs:

  • The airline has relatively few aircraft on order to replace its existing 737
  • Chances are the airline got great terms with Boeing and lots 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 retire most Airbus aircraft by 2023

Probably more interesting than Alaska Airlines ‘increased Boeing 737 MAX order are the implications this order has for Alaska Airlines’ Airbus fleet.

Alaska Airlines acquired its Airbus aircraft through its Virgin America acquisition, and as it stands, the airline has:

  • 10 Airbus A319, which on average is over 13 years old
  • 49 Airbus A320, which on average is over 10 years old
  • 10 Airbus A321neos, which are on average less than three years old

While there have long been rumors that Alaska Airlines would retire with most of its Airbus aircraft, it is now official. Alaska Airlines has confirmed it will replace all A319s and A320s with Boeing 737 MAX 9s by mid-2023.

So while Alaska Airlines will not return to an all-Boeing fleet, the Seattle-based airline’s Airbus fleet will consist exclusively of 10 A321neos.

As explained, the 737 MAX 9 is 20% more fuel efficient than the A320 per. Seat and it can fly 600 miles further.

Alaska Airlines is retiring most of its Airbus fleet

Could Alaska do something cool with the remaining A321neos?

While it is very unlikely that something like this will happen soon, one has to wonder if Alaska could eventually do something special with its A321neo fleet. As much as I’m sure Alaska would love fleet consistency, it makes sense that Alaska does not retire with these aircraft as they are new and fuel efficient.

With a submarine of 10 A321neos, one has to wonder if Alaska Airlines might not end up using these in a different way than other aircraft. Eg. Could the A321neos eventually be set up for select 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 this concept and seems fine with abandoning the premium market, but could it ultimately change?

This is quite speculation on my part, although 10 A321neos seem like a potentially decent undercarriage to have.

Alaska’s current Airbus aircraft product

Bottom line

Alaska Airlines has increased its Boeing 737 MAX 9 order to 68 aircraft with the option of a further 52. The fixed order aircraft will be delivered between 2021 and 2024. As part of this agreement, Alaska Airlines will also retire its A319 and A320. aircraft by 2023, which means that the only Airbus aircraft that the airline will operate will be 10 A321neos.

What are you making of this development in Alaska Airlines’ fleet?