Alaska Airlines has welcomed the delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. The plane is key to the carrier’s strategic, long-term fleet plan that will see the airline operate longer routes and carry more passengers as it expands its network coverage.
With the arrival of the latest addition to the Alaska Airlines fleet, the carrier operates the youngest fleet of all US mainline airlines. Looking ahead, from 2024 to 2027, the company is on track to add a further 15 to 25 new Boeing aircraft annually.
The airline currently has firm orders for a further 80 737 MAX family aircraft, with options and purchase rights for another 105. The company’s first 737-10 is scheduled for delivery in 2025.
“The addition of the 737-8 and eventually the 737-10 to our fleet creates new opportunities for us to fly longer nonstop routes and maximize our revenue potential,” said Nat Pieper, senior vice president of fleet, finance, and alliances at Alaska Airlines. “We have achieved terrific results with the 737-9 in guest satisfaction, economics, and fuel efficiency, and we are excited for our future with the other 737 models,” he added.
In March 2022, Alaska adjusted its existing 737-9 aircraft order with Boeing to include the larger 737-10 (currently uncertified) and the longer-range 737-8. The additional 737 models will “enhance profitability and guest satisfaction by offering us more ways to deploy the optimal aircraft size and capability in each market we fly,” said the airline.
The newest aircraft will be used on the carrier’s nonstop Anchorage (ANC) to New York (JFK) seasonal route which will commence on June 13, 2024. The route, at 3,386 miles (5,417 km) will become the airline’s longest flight on its route network.
Alaska Airlines is scheduled to take delivery of seven more 737-8s in 2024, with the next four slotted to enter the fleet in March 2024. The 737-8, -9, and -10 all offer a common cockpit, common engines, and similar components to allow synergies across the fleet.
Meanwhile, Alaska’s regional carrier, Horizon Air, is also continuing to grow its fleet of aircraft. Over the next three years, Horizon will add nine new Embraer E175s, bringing its total to 50 by the end of 2026. Alaska’s regional partner SkyWest also operates 42 E175s on its behalf, bringing the combined fleet size of mainline and regional aircraft to 310.
737-800 refurbishment plans
Although the airline is looking ahead to new aircraft joining, the carrier will also be undertaking cabin refurbishments to its existing fleet of 60 Boeing 737-800 aircraft. With modifications beginning in late 2024, the company is investing $130 million to overhaul these cabins.
“It’s more important than ever that we deliver a consistent product to our guests,” said Todd Traynor-Corey, managing director of guest products at Alaska Airlines. “The updates we’re making to our older Boeing aircraft will provide a more consistent guest experience on our Boeing fleet by making the cabins look and feel more like our 737-9 and 737-8 aircraft,” he added.
The enhancements to the -800s include a move to a 161-seat configuration with 16 seats in First Class and new seats in Premium Class and the main cabin. Since modifications of the new configuration are expected to be completed in 2026, a subset of the -800s will receive a refresh of the existing cabin in the first half of this year to improve the overall guest experience for the airline’s customers.