Alaska Airlines exchanges A320s for 737 MAXs

The Seattle-based carrier becomes the first to add more MAXs to its fleet following the FAA’s un-grounding last week

In a bid to further streamline its mainline fleet, Alaska Airlines is set to sell ten of its Airbus A320s to Air Lease Corporation and will subsequently lease 13 new Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft in return.

Alaska Airlines 737
Alaska Airlines owns a fleet of 68 Airbus narrowbody family aircraft. Aviation Image Network/Bailey

The airline currently holds a roster which is heavily weighted towards the American airframer as it operates 166 737s. The ten European-built jets were not in the carrier’s long-term plan, so it says it is taking this opportunity to replace them with more fuel-efficient MAXs.

The decision comes less than a week after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared the type to return to service. Alaska Airlines is the first carrier to add more jets since the regulator’s landmark ruling.

“Alaska's relationship with Steve [ALC CEO] 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,” said Brad Tilden, Alaska Air Group chairman and CEO. “We found an opportunity to sell ten planes that are not in our long-term plans and replace them with 13 of the most efficient narrowbody aircraft available.”

Alaska Airlines' Boeing fleet stretches to more than 160 airframes. Aviation Image Network/Simon Gregory

The operator says the MAX aircraft is 20% more fuel-efficient and generate 20% fewer carbon emissions per seat than the A320s they will replace. The aircraft is also able to fly 600 miles farther than Alaska’s current A320, which it says will open the possibility of additional nonstop routes and new destinations.

The 13 leased aircraft – which are expected to be delivered in the fourth quarter of next year – are in addition to the 32 MAX Alaska currently has on order with Boeing, five of which are expected to be flying by summer 2021. Alaska will begin flying the 737-9 MAX in March next year.