Things are improving for Alaska Airlines. Now, to support the carrier’s recovery, it is planning on reactivating ten Airbus A320ceos. These planes, which are only coming back for a short time, will help tide the carrier over before it gets enough Boeing 737 MAX jets to support its fleet plans.
Alaska Airlines reactivating 10 Airbus A320s
On the carrier’s second-quarter earnings call, CEO Ben Minicucci stated the following on Alaska Airlines reactivating 10 Airbus jets:
“We are planning to reactivate approximately 10 Airbus aircraft and begin flying them this fall and winter. This temporary return of several Airbus airplanes allows us to create capacity quickly and protects against unforeseen events that could be outside of our control, such as supply chain disruption.”
The Airbus jets that are coming back will come online later this year, toward the fourth quarter. The jets are mainly there to support the airline’s recovery heading into summer 2022. While it is reactivating these jets, the airline is still confident in Boeing’s ability to deliver the MAX jets Alaska has on order. As Mr. Minicucci stated:
“I am 100% confident in Boeing’s ability to deliver. You know, our view is that there are things right now in the economy, with supply chain, that some of us can’t even see– out of our control, out of Alaska’s control, out of Boeing’s control, and these Airbus, what it does is just gives us dry powder to either backfill any issues that we may experience because of it, or like Andrew said, we can grow up to 8% for the next summer of 2022.”
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Alaska’s Airbus A320ceos
The jets that are coming back are 10 Airbus A320ceos. These planes have room for 150 passengers. There are 12 in first class, 24 in extra-legroom economy, and 114 in standard economy. These ten jets will complement the 21 existing Airbus A320s alaska recorded in its fleet at the end of the first quarter.
The Airbus A320ceos were additions to Alaska’s fleet after the merger with Virgin America. However, Alaska had consistently sought to return to its all-Boeing roots. To replace the A320s, it turned to the Boeing 737 MAX. It will also continue to fly the Airbus A321neo.
After placing a large 737 MAX order, the carrier turned to accelerated Airbus A320ceo retirements. In the early days of the crisis, it got rid of its Airbus A319s, leaving only the A320ceos and ten A321neos left in its fleet.
However, Alaska Airlines now needs the added capacity to support its ongoing recovery. The summer has been turning out to be a good one for travel in the United States, and demand continues to return as various states and attractions reopen. It made decisions to retire the Airbus A320s quickly before seeing the quick return of demand.
The Airbus A320s are only coming back temporarily. Alaska Airlines is expecting to take 31 Boeing 737 MAX 9s next year, and those will help support the airline’s future fleet plans and lead to more Airbus A320ceo retirements.
Where Alaska’s recovery stands
Things are looking up at Alaska Airlines. The carrier is planning to return to 100% of 2019-levels of flying by summer 2022 at the latest, though it will accelerate that timeline if the demand environment warrants. Currently, Alaska Airlines plans to fly capacity 17-20% below 2019 levels in the third quarter, with load factors at roughly 82-85%.
Disciplined capacity growth is the name of the game at Alaska. However, it has not shied away from adding new routes as it sees fit, including from Boise, Palm Springs, and Austin. Additionally, it continues to bolster its Seattle hub and is launching new flying to Belize this winter.
Altogether, the summer has proven to be a great season for Alaska Airlines. The carrier is coming back strong, and it is headed back toward profitability in its own right without government support. With the recovery continuing in earnest, Alaska Airlines needs more planes, and it is gearing up for the flexibility to fly more than 2019-levels of capacity sooner if necessary.
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