LONDON — Alaska Airlines has confirmed that it has changed its original order for 15 Boeing 737 MAX 8s for the variant’s larger version, the 737 MAX 9.
With this change, the firm order commitments for the MAX 9 now rise to 32 during the first quarter of the year.
The airline is set to take delivery of its first MAX 9 in 2019, with the rest of their order being delivered up to 2023.
The carrier also has an outstanding order for 11 737-900ERs.
The move is believed to be a part of a much more significant restructuring of the airline’s 120 Boeing 737s in its fleet.
Alaska placed an order with Boeing last year for 20 737 MAX 8s, 17 737 MAX 9s and 13 of the Next-Generation 737-900ERs at a list price of $5 Billion which made it the largest in Alaska Airlines’ history.
Boeing said that the new firm order of 50 aircraft, plus the already existing 25 firm orders, would meet the carrier’s fleet replacement and growth needs for the next decade.
The MAX 9s can seat up to 193 passengers in a dual class configuration, compared to the 178 passengers that the MAX 8 can hold.
Despite the increase in size and passenger numbers through the MAX 9 and MAX 8, both have the same operational range of 3,550nm.
Alaska Airlines also made a few tweaks to its delivery schedule. The carrier pushed back several aircraft deliveries, spreading them out over the next three years.
The carrier reduced the number of delivers for 2019 in half from its original schedule, with only 12 aircraft due to be taken from the original 24 that had been confirmed at the end of 2017. This order includes one Airbus A321neo, four Embraer 175s, and seven 737s.
Although Alaska hasn’t released comments on these delivery changes, it is likely that following the merger with Virgin America and the inherent acquisition of its Airbus planes, the demand for additional capacity has been already met.
The Vice-President of Capacity at the Alaska Airlines Group was quoted last year saying “the Acquisition of Virgin America has propelled us five-plus years into the future.”
The acquisition has allowed Alaska Airlines to push down into the Californian market which at the time was a market of around 39 million people.
Whatever the reasons behind Alaska’s decision to change the order, it is clear that the airline still has plans to continue to expand its presence across the U.S. market.