Alaska Airlines on Wednesday said it has exercised options to buy 42 Boeing 737 Max 10 and 10 Max 9 jets for delivery between 2024 and 2027. The order increases the size of the airline's confirmed Max fleet from 94 to 146 aircraft and provides it with full flexibility to shift between 737 Max models as the need arises. Alaska also secured rights for 105 more airplanes through 2030, representing the largest commitment for future aircraft in its history.
“This investment secures aircraft to optimize our growth through the next decade, which we know will be a formidable competitive advantage,” said Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci. "We're proud of the strong financial foundation that uniquely positions Alaska to make this commitment to our future, and of the fantastic partnership we share with our hometown aircraft manufacturer at Boeing.”
Now operating 35 Boeing 737 Max 9s configured to seat 178 passengers, Alaska expects to take delivery of another 43 Max jets by the end of 2023. At that time, it will “sunset” its remaining Airbus A320-family narrowbodies, resulting in a fleet consisting exclusively of Boeing aircraft.
Alaska said the order provides “line of sight” to operating more than 250 Max jets by 2030 and the flexibility to match deliveries with economic conditions while saving its place in the production line. The airline said it plans to use the Max 10—which seats 204 passengers in a dual-class configuration—to provide further route flexibility and service.
Fleet flexibility proved to be a vital component of the deal, given continuing uncertainty over the timing of the Max 10’s certification. Boeing continues to insist it won’t let what it calls an arbitrary deadline to complete certification of the Max 10 and the Max 7 influence the timing of its paperwork exercise with the FAA, despite the real possibility of a compromise in commonality between those airplanes and the Max 8, Max 9, and 737NG. Still at issue is a legislative requirement that would make it necessary for Boeing to install a new engine indicating and crew alerting system (EICAS) in the Max 7 and Max 10 if it does not meet the year-end deadline, an eventuality that appears ever more likely.
Boeing continues to cite safety as the “driving factor” in the certification effort and laments the safety compromise that the loss of commonality between various submodels of the 737 would cause by a need to install an EICAS in the Max 7 and Max 10.
“Safety gains in commercial aviation over several decades have demonstrated that a consistent operational experience across an airplane family is an industry best practice that benefits flight crews and the flying public by enhancing safety and reducing risk,” said Boeing.