This week, Alaska Airlines took delivery of its first 737 MAX ahead of the type’s official introduction in March. Now we also know which US destinations the airline’s first MAX will serve on March 1st, as well as some training flights to Alaska.
Alaska Airlines is set to operate its first 737-9 MAX on daily roundtrip routes from Seattle (SEA) to Los Angeles (LAX) and Seattle to San Diego SAN). The aircraft, registration N913AK, arrived in Seattle from the Boeing field on Sunday. Although the airline has yet to officially reveal the aircraft, it has arrived over a month before it is due to start operations.
Five weeks of testing
In this time, the aircraft won’t simply be sat in a hangar looking stunning. It will be flown at least 50 times for a minimum of 190,000 miles for training flights. The plane will, in fact, head to Hawaii and Alaska as a part of the training process for Alaska Airlines’ pilots, to help pilots fly in varying weather conditions and climates. The plane will also spend time over the west coast of the US as well as over the Northern states, as Alaska pilots put it through its paces.
As well as operating rigorous testing flights, Alaska’s pilot will also sit through 40 hours of training to understand the differences between the original MAX and the new, improved version. Pilots will also have to spend at least two hours in Alaska’s MAX-specific simulator and a further eight hours of computer simulator training.
The five-week training process is considerably more than what the FAA is requesting. Despite asking pilots to undergo more training than necessary, the airline confirmed in a statement that it has complete confidence in the MAX and is ready to start using it on passenger flights.
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Alaska’s MAX fleet
It’s a good thing Alaska is so confident in the MAX because it has 68 737-9 MAX being delivered in the next four years. The airline will receive another 12 MAX planes in 2021, 30 in 2022, 13 in 2023, and the final 12 in 2024. It also has options for another 52 as it looks to move away from its Airbus fleet.
While Alaska Airlines is confident in the MAX, passenger opinions remain very divided between those who are still cautious of the MAX and those who have total faith in the newly-approved aircraft. Alaska has not confirmed if it will warn passengers in advance that they will be traveling on a MAX, nor has it said that passengers would be able to switch flights if they wish to.
With so few MAX back in service, avoiding a MAX is not too difficult. However, as more MAX return to service and more routes open up as demand grows, the number of MAX in the skies is growing. So, if you want to travel on one of Alaska’s MAX, your options are limited to Seattle flights for now. But don’t be surprised if you see one elsewhere. With so many testing flights set to take place over the coming weeks, Alaska’s first 737 MAX will be well-traveled.
What do you think of Alaska’s MAX fleet? Are you hoping to fly on the MAX or hoping to avoid it? Get in touch in the comments section and let us know your thoughts.