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 our daily newsletter

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."

"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

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, 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 Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 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.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases