Alaska Airlines made a huge Boeing 737 MAX order on Tuesday, a nice Christmas gift for Boeing. Alongside announcing the order, Alaska Airlines also announced it would be removing all of its Airbus A320 aircraft within three years. Already, with this order, Alaska immediately retired 20 A320s.
Alaska to cut A320s within three years
On September 30th, 2020, Alaska Airlines had 217 aircraft in its mainline fleet. This included the following:
- Three Boeing 737 freighters
- 11 Boeing 737-700s
- 61 Boeing 737-800s
- 12 Boeing 737-900s
- 79 Boeing 737-900ERs
- 41 Airbus A320s
- 10 Airbus A321neo
Today, that number is down to 197 mainline fleets, with 20 immediate retirements of the Airbus A320 fleet resulting from the new 737 MAX order placed on Tuesday.
At the start of 2020, Alaska Airlines had 10 Airbus A319s in its fleet and 51 Airbus A320s. There are another 10 Airbus A321neos in the airline’s fleet. By the end, Alaska Airlines will have retired over half of its Airbus fleet, with all 10 A319s out of the airline’s fleet and another 30 Airbus A320s also exited.
In 2021, Alaska Airlines will be removing zero aircraft as of now. In 2022, another eight Airbus A320s will leave the fleet, and the final 13 will exit in 2023.
In the meantime, 13 Boeing 737 MAX 9s will enter the airline’s fleet, 30 in 2022 and 13 in 2023, taking the overall MAX fleet to 56 jets.
What about the Airbus A321neos?
The Airbus A319s and A320s were always an easy choice for Alaska Airlines to retire. Almost all of these aircraft were leased, and Alaska has always been a legacy Boeing operator. Also, Alaska has not been huge fans of these aircraft, but it has been a fan of its Airbus A321neos.
The Airbus A321neos are the largest aircraft in Alaska’s fleet by seat capacity. And, the aircraft are all new and have been performing well economically for Alaska Airlines.
The airline has plans to keep the Airbus A321neos through 2023, at least. However, there is a possibility that its A321neo fleet could grow.
Alaska Airlines inherited a 30-aircraft order from its merger with Virgin America for Airbus A320neo aircraft. Alaska Airlines could turn to Airbus and ask for the A321neos instead.
The other thing to recognize with the A321neos is that these aircraft are leased, which means Alaska is not wedded to operating them long-term. The MAX 10 could be a reason for Alaska to retire the A321neos, so it is about 50-50 on whether Alaska will keep the A321neos. Still, Boeing is favored to win this battle as well in the interest of efficiency, fleet commonality, and cost-savings.
Nearing the end of Virgin America’s legacy
The Airbus A320 fleet was one of the few remaining pieces of Virgin America remaining in the sky. With these aircraft exiting, soon, Virgin America’s memory will be distant.
Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America to gain greater access on the West Coast of the United States, and it has utilized that well. However, it has not shown an interest in keeping the same planes that Virgin did and moved to retire the Virgin America brand quickly.
Aside from the new “Safety Dance,” Alaska is moving back to its roots, away from the Virgin brand and the moniker “Proudly All Boeing.”
Are you glad to see Alaska Airlines continue to withdraw A320s from its fleet? Let us know in the comments!