Alaska Airlines has inked a deal to lease more new Boeing 737-9 Max aircraft from Air Lease Corporation. The 13 737-9 Max aircraft are scheduled to be delivered beginning in the fourth quarter 2021 through 2022.
As part of the agreement, Alaska will sell 10 Airbus A320s to Air Leasing Corp, and lease those aircraft back from Air Lease for a short period of time after the transaction closes.
The Max aircraft are 20 percent more fuel efficient and generate 20 percent less carbon emissions per seat than the A320s they will replace. The aircraft is also able to fly 600 miles farther than Alaska's current A320, which opens the possibility of additional nonstop routes and new destinations.
In November, the Federal Aviation Administration rescinded the order grounding the 737 Max, clearing the way for the aircraft to return to the skies, following a 20-month grounding. To lift the order, the FAA required Boeing to make a series of software changes, wiring and hardware redesign and develop new pilot training requirements.
Each new Max will undergo test flights by FAA inspectors and be certified airworthy before delivery. In addition, Alaska Air says pilots, maintenance technicians and safety experts will “put the plane through its paces” – flying more than 19,000 miles and over 50 flight hours to test the aircraft.
The 13 leased aircraft are in addition to the 32 Max Alaska currently has on order with Boeing – five of which are expected to be flying by summer 2021. Alaska will begin flying the 737-9 Max in March 2021.
After permanently parking all A319s and some A320s earlier this summer, this deal leaves Alaska Airlines with 39 A320s in the operating fleet along with 10 A321neos.
Currently Southwest Airlines is the largest operator of the 737 Max with 34 deliveries so far. However the carrier’s chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said Southwest would not be in a rush to return the aircraft to service.
“There is much work to be done before our Max aircraft will resume service,” Kelly said, as he outlined plans to restart operations with the carrier’s fleet of 737 Max aircraft.