Alaska Airlines will take delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX in less than a week. January 14th will mark the first of 68 units of the narrowbody to join the carrier this decade. Simple Flying spoke with Alaska Airlines’ SVP of fleet, finance and alliances, Nathaniel Pieper, about the company’s plans with the type.
At the end of last month, Alaska Airlines announced that it made an agreement in principle with Boeing to restructure the airline’s order to receive a total of 68 737-9 MAX jets with options for an additional 52 units. 13 of the planes will arrive this year and another 30 will come next year. After that, 13 more are set to join in 2023, and 12 will be delivered in 2024.
Pieper explains that after his airline takes delivery of its first MAX on the coming Thursday, the operator will be busy getting ready for the jet’s service introduction. The Seattle-based carrier has several aspects to cover before the March 1st entry date.
“We’ll take delivery of our first a week from today – January 14th is the date – and it will go into revenue service on March 1st. So, because Alaska doesn’t have any of that fleet type flying around – and it isn’t specific to the MAX; airlines do this no matter what airplane type. But if it’s new, you take delivery of the first couple of airplanes and do a lot of testing runs,” Pieper told Simple Flying.
“You make sure that you fly it to the main airports where those airplanes are going to fly in revenue service, make sure the stations can handle them, do all of our internal tests and be ready to fully support them before they go, and we start putting gas on airplanes. So, it will be about a six-week period between the first delivery and then on March 1st when we ultimately put the aircraft into revenue service.”
A valued fleet member
Pieper explained that 13 737 MAXs are going to come from Air Lease Corporation. As part of the transaction, the company agreed to acquire 10 of Alaska Airlines’ Airbus A320s that came from Virgin America.
Virgin placed an order for 30 A320neos, split between ten units a year between 2023, 2024, and 2025. However, Alaska Airlines feels that in all the economics that it ran, the MAX 9 is a superior plane to the A320neo.
The 737 MAX has already made a return to the skies by a handful of airlines recently. Nonetheless, there may still be several passengers wary about stepping on the type again after its grounding. However, Pieper affirms that his airline has put flexibility in place for passengers and staff to be re-accommodated if they are not comfortable flying on the plane.
The businessman shares that guest acceptance has been positive so far and that there is a lot of time between now and when the carrier introduces revenue 737 MAX service at the beginning of March. Regardless, the firm will be sympathetic to those wishing to be re-accommodated.
Altogether, the 737 MAX will be a prominent feature for airlines by the time this year is over. With Alaska Airlines receiving its first unit this month, it is good timing following the type’s reintroduction.
What are your thoughts about Alaska Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX order? Will you be looking to fly on the 737 MAX this year? Let us know what you think of the aircraft in the comment section.