Alaska Airlines, based in Seattle, has been an all-Boeing operator. They acquired Virgin America which flew Airbus narrowbodies. It’s seemed from the beginning that they’d eventually dump those planes, and now the fate of Alaska Airlines Airbus A319s and A320s is sealed with Alaska’s order of 23 additional Boeing 737 MAX 9s.
Boeing, desperate to sell MAX aircraft as the plane is ungrounded and on the hook to compensate operators of the MAX, sold Alaska the new planes for no additional cash down, restructuring existing deposits on MAX orders as part of the deal. Alaska Airlines now has 68 MAX orders and 52 options.
- Alaska will drop its Airbus A319s and A320s as they come off lease, and all will be gone by 2024.
- However they have 10 Airbus A321neos leased through 2029.
A fleet of 10 A321s isn’t economical. Alaska has orders for 30 Airbus A320neos inherited from Virgin America. These are cancellable and Leehan News writes that the cancellation penalty is “not large.” These orders, however, could be converted to A321neos and Alaska could grow that aircraft type. Boeing doesn’t currently offer a comparable product.
They may even be negotiating with Airbus over A321XLRs,
The XLR would open many routes the MAX 9 can’t do. (The MAX 10 has even less range.) Depending on the US city, Alaska could go nicely into Latin and some areas of South America with the XLR.
Even Anchorage and Honolulu could see significant, expanded service, should Alaska choose.
Market intelligence indicates Alaska wants a price for the A321neo millions below Airbus’ offer. Whether this gap can be bridged remains to be seen.
Boeing was truly motivated to deal. Airbus has fared better with its narrowbodies. Whether or not Alaska takes more, or exits Airbus forever, likely comes down to how motivated the European aircraft manufacturer is to sell these planes.