Born in the Pacific Northwest, US carrier Alaska Airlines serves destinations throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. Historically a loyal Boeing operator, the carrier adopted Airbus aircraft into its fleet with the acquisition of Virgin America. However, it is slowly returning to its Boeing roots. Let’s take a look at the current fleet of Alaska Airlines as of 2021.
Alaska Airlines has historically been a strong customer of Boeing narrowbodies. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying
The Alaska Airlines fleet at a glance
Let’s first take a look at the composition of the airline’s fleet as a whole. The aircraft types are listed below with quantities* in parentheses:
Airbus A320 (44)Airbus A321 (10)Boeing 737 (174)This figure excludes the Dash 8 and Embraer E170s, which are part of its Horizon Air subsidiary.
The A321 is also a part of the Alaska fleet. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying
Historically loyal to Boeing
Throughout its history, Alaska Airlines has been a very loyal Boeing 737 customer. The carrier has operated numerous variants of the narrowbody, including the -200, -400, -700, -800, -900, and MAX 9.
The 737-700s are the smallest (and oldest) variant currently operated by Alaska. The carrier outfits these aircraft with 124 seats and uses them on short- and medium-haul missions. Moving up in size, the airline’s two most popular variants are the 737-800 (61) and 737-900ER (79). Naturally, the larger capacity of these aircraft suits the airline’s more popular routes.
The overall average age of the 737 fleet is 10 and a half years.
Alaska’s Airbus aircraft come from Virgin America. Photo: Tomas del Coro via Wikimedia Commons
Including Airbus aircraft
Although the airline has historically been loyal to Boeing, it currently has a number of Airbus narrowbodies in the fleet. This is due to Alaska’s acquisition of Virgin America. Speaking at Routes Reconnected last year, CEO of Alaska Airlines, Brad Tilden, stated the following regarding the merger:
“We felt like we needed more scale. The US industry was changing. American and US Air and America West were one airline, Continental and United had become one airline. Delta and Northwest, AirTran and Southwest… We felt like we needed to scale up.”
Since the completion of the merger in 2018, Alaska has been flying a mixed fleet with ex-Virgin America Airbus jets. However, this mixed fleet flying may not last long as the carrier has been phasing out some Airbus jets.
The airline also adopted Virgin America’s Airbus orders. Indeed, up until recently, Alaska Airlines used to have an order for 30 Airbus A320neo aircraft on the books. However, the airline had never taken delivery of a single plane from this order, maintaining it for quite some time. Perhaps signaling its confidence in the 737 MAX, the airline officially canceled the order in October of 2021.
Alaska Airlines first started its real transition towards an all-Boeing fleet in November of 2020 when it announced a transaction that would lead to the swap of 10 Airbus A320ceos from Alaska’s fleet in favor of leases for 13 new Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft from Air Lease Corporation.
While the A320s may not be around for long, it might be a different story with the Airbus A321neos. At this time, there is no clear way to get these 10 aircraft out of the fleet. Thus, for now, Alaska will keep them flying.
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