Alaska bets on Boeing with retirement of A320 family mainline jets

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  • Alaska Airlines plans to simplify its fleet to just two types of aircraft – the Boeing 737 and the Embraer 175.
  • The carrier also operates Airbus A320 family aircraft and the Q400 turboprop, but plans to retire them all by the end of 2023.
  • Travel analyst Henry Harteveldt told Insider that Alaska’s decision to choose Boeing over Airbus was “pretty obvious.”

Alaska Airlines announcement Thursday that it is simplifying its fleet to just two types of planes by the end of 2023, allowing the airline to reduce operational costs and strengthen its loyalty to Boeing.

Alaska plans to retire all of its Airbus A320 and Bombardier Q400 family aircraft over the next 21 months, leaving the Embraer 175 as the airline’s regional jet and the Boeing 737 as its primary workhorse.

Committing to just two aircraft types will enable “operational simplicity, flexibility and scalability, better fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs,” according to the carrier.

“We are well positioned to continue this trend, leveraging loyalty, alliances, network and brand growth to unlock significant value and generate $400 million in additional revenue as part of our strategic plan. 2025,” Alaska CEO Ben Minicucci said in a statement. Press release. “Accelerating our transition to single fleets while improving growth is also a key part of this strategy.”

Alaska acquired 60 A320 Family planes when it merged with Virgin America in 2016, but has since retired all of its A319s during the pandemic, ch-aviation reported. It also secured an order for 30 A321neo aircraft as part of the merger but canceled the order at the end of 2021.

While Alaska canceled the Airbus order and plans to retire nearly 80 planes, its fleet is expected to grow to about 400 planes by mid-decade, the airline said. Currently, Alaska has 145 Boeing 737 MAX planes on order.

Meanwhile, the carrier has placed an order for 17 Embraer 175 jets in May 2021 which will be operated by subsidiary Horizon Air and partner SkyWest Airlines, Reuters reported.

Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst and president of the Atmospheric Research Group, told Insider the move from Alaska was expected because of the cost advantages.

“There’s a benefit to simplifying a fleet in many ways, from pilot and flight attendant training to maintenance costs,” Harteveldt explained. “There are thousands of parts you need to stock for daily maintenance repairs, as well as more comprehensive maintenance checks, but simplifying Alaska to the 737 will make it a much more cost-effective airline.”

He also said that it is easier to replace an aircraft in the event of a breakdown with a simplified fleet.

Harteveldt told Insider that the Q400’s retirement surprised him, saying it was a “great turboprop aircraft.” However, he thinks it’s likely that Alaska did not need enough small planes to justify the high piloting and maintenance costs needed to keep it in the fleet.

Alaska Airlines Q400 aircraft.

Alaska Airlines Q400 aircraft.

Alaska Airlines


Additionally, he explained that there are routes where the Embraer 175 may not be cost effective, but the cost savings of flying one regional aircraft versus two are worth the loss.

According to Harteveldt, Alaska’s commitment to Boeing comes down to its history of operating the 737 and the number of the type in its fleet compared to Airbus, especially since the carrier has adorned “Proudly All Boeing.” on the nose of its more than 150 737. Planes.

“When you already have a significant majority of planes made by one company and you’re looking to simplify, the decision is pretty obvious,” he explained.

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