Alaska Airlines is leaning towards an all-Boeing 737 fleet after the coronavirus

May 5, 2020

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 entered the coronavirus pandemic at a major fleet crossroads: Airbus or Boeing? A decision the crisis may have made for the carrier.

The Seattle-based carrier began the year weighing what to do with the 61 Airbus A319s and A320s it inherited from Virgin America in 2016. On the table was either replace them with more A321neos — the airline operates 10 — or with additional Boeing 737 MAX orders.

At the heart of the decision was whether to return to Alaska’s “Proudly All Boeing” marketing or maintain the dual fleet it has flown for four years. At the end of 2019, It flew 71 A320 family and 166 737 family jets.

Get Coronavirus travel updates. Stay on top of industry impacts, flight cancellations, and more.

Now, with capacity down 80% due to COVID-19 and no expectation of an immediate recovery, the carrier is pivoting back to its 737 roots. Alaska has permanently retired 12 aircraft, all 10 of its A319s plus two A320s, and is re-training some Airbus pilots on the 737 as a result of the crisis.

“It’s probably safe to assume that the fleet decision is being made in real time,” asked Deutsche Bank analyst Michael Linenberg during Alaska’s first-quarter earnings call on Tuesday.

Alaska executives, unsurprisingly, demurred from confirming a pivot back to Boeing. The airline continues to weigh many “factors” when it comes to its future fleet, said president Ben Minicucci in response.

“A dual fleet does have higher costs for us, that is a factor we’re going to consider,” he said, adding that no fleet decision has been made. He did emphasize that low costs are a priority for Alaska as it emerges from the crisis.

Related: Alaska Airlines weighs Boeing or Airbus to replace Virgin America fleet

But the writing appears on the wall. The airline retired the A319s, all of which are leased, even though its 11 comparably-sized 737-700s are older. And any potential future replacement of the 12 retired planes will come from its orders for 32 737 MAX 9 jets, Alaska financial chief Shane Tackett said during the call.

There is still time to fly on one of Alaska’s Airbus jets. Leases on the remaining A320s run through 2025, and on the A321neos through 2031. Those return dates can be renegotiated but all of the planes will not be returned at once.

And, for those fleet purists out there, Alaska’s regional subsidiary Horizon Air continues to fly both the De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 and Embraer 175.

Alaska has parked more than half of its mainline fleet, totaling 153 jets, due to the pandemic. It has also parked 21 regional aircraft.

Related: Alaska calls Boeing a ‘fantastic partner’ in decision between A321neo and 737 MAX

Featured image by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.