After acquiring Sir Richard Branson's American subsidiary, Virgin America, Alaska Airlines' Boeing jets still wear a sticker on their nose saying "Proudly All Boeing" even though they operate 71 Airbus A320 family jets. Indications from the Pacific Northwest based firm show that they may emerge from the current COVID-19 situation aiming for an all Boeing 737 mainline fleet. Steps towards this appear to already have been taken, with the phasing out of older A320 types and returning the remaining leased Airbus A319s. The airlines 10 Airbus A321neos which are on lease until 2031 look like they'll be staying in the fleet until the lease expires.
The initial plan was and still is to eventually replace the Airbus jets with 737 MAX aircraft. The airline has 37 737 MAX jets on order, 20 of them MAX 8 variants and 17 MAX 9s. The next-generation Boeing jets are also intended to replace older 737 examples most likely including the two original prototype 737-900s which are both 20+ years old. It is worth noticing the slight favoring of Boeing by the Seattle based company, as they can get their new airplanes from their home city . An example of this is them choosing to retire their Airbus A319s before their older 737-700s.
Looking towards the regional sector, Horizon Air, the airline's Portland-based regional subsidiary has begun phasing out its older Bombardier Dash-8 Q400s with new Embraer E175LRs. No indication has been made whether they will order the E175-E2 however SkyWest, who also operate E175s on behalf of Alaska Airlines has an order of 100 E2 aircraft, but the US Pilot's Union's restrictions have block the delivery of this $9.4 billion deal. There is also no indication of who these new jets will operate for.
The Alaska Air Group has already received nearly $1 billion in government aid via the Payroll Support Program, or PSP. $267 million of this is in the form of a loan. This all comes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alaska has dropped capacity 80% and posted losses of $100 million. The airline has been trying out all cargo flights in the wake of the pandemic, as well as grounding over half of its fleet. Horizon Air has around two thirds of its fleet currently stored at Portland International Airport.
As with everything at the moment it's quite hard to tell what the industry will look like post-pandemic, however speculations can be made. And as always we're hoping airlines will emerge even stronger than before and ready to bounce back for a better year in aviation.
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