Skip to content

Alaska Airlines: Boeing or Airbus to replace Virgin America fleet

Jan. 29, 2020
4 min read
Alaska Airlines: Boeing or Airbus to replace Virgin America fleet
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Alaska Airlines is weighing the question nearly every major airline today faces: order more Airbus A320neo family jets or up its commitments for the beleaguered Boeing 737 MAX.

The Seattle-based carrier needs to replace the 61 leased Airbus A319s and A320s that it inherited from Virgin America by around 2024. Those jets begin returning to lessors later this year, prompting the need for a decision.

Alaska's impending narrow-body aircraft campaign, which will likely kick off this quarter, looks set to be the next major order among U.S. carriers. It will also determine the future of Alaska's long-standing slogan: "Proudly All Boeing."

Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more airline news!

“We have an opportunity to replace 61 A319 and A320 aircraft with larger gauge, more efficient assets... [that] would give us the ability to generate more revenue while lower unit cost," said Shane Tackett, Alaska's executive vice president of planning and strategy — and chief financial officer from March — during a quarterly earnings call on Tuesday.

The airline will consider either additional A321neos or more 737 MAX 9s or MAX 10s to replace the outgoing jets, Tackett said. The airline operated 10 A321neos — all via its Virgin America acquisition —and had orders for 32 737 MAX jets at the end of December.

The issues surrounding both the Neo and MAX do not appear to weigh on Alaska's consideration, at least not yet. Production delays have plagued recent A321neo deliveries that, for example, have forced JetBlue Airways to lease additional jets to make up for the shortfall of new aircraft.

The 737 MAX's issues are well known. The aircraft has been under a microscope since it was grounded last March. Under Boeing's latest forecast, the jet is not expected to take to the skies again until the middle of the year.

Alaska is due to take delivery of 10 737 MAX 9s this year, though Tackett called the timeline "uncertain."

Sign up for our daily newsletter

"Boeing's challenges with the MAX did cause us to rework the sequencing of events and some of our timing," Nathaniel Pieper, senior vice president of fleet, finance and alliances at Alaska, said about the replacement timing for the A319s and A320s. However, he is confident that the airline will make a decision by the fourth quarter.

Related: Why Alaska Airlines is returning to its routes in the West

Alaska has known about the coming A319 and A320 retirements since it bought Virgin America in 2016. In early 2017, Alaska said it would make a replacement decision by year-end — a decision it has punted every year since.

The carrier already has two aircraft options in its back pocket. Alaska has commitments for 30 A320neo family jets with deliveries from 2022 to 2024 in an order it inherited from Virgin, and options for a further 37 737 MAXes. It could exercise either — or both — of these alternatives if it wanted.

Alaska plans to grow capacity by 3-4% year-over-year in 2020. Part of this is its network pivot back to its strongest markets along the West Coast. The airline has unveiled a number of new north-south routes in recent months, including new flights to Monterey, California (MRY).

Related: Alaska Airlines’ California expansion lands in Monterey

Featured image by Getty Images

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review
Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1XEarn 1x points on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

Fair/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1XEarn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

    Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    Fair/Good

Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees