MIAMI – Today, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines (AS) began revenue service with the Boeing 737 MAX 9 (N913AK), nine years after placing its initial order back in 2012.
With the flight, AS becomes the first NEW global operator of the MAX following its November 2020 ungrounding by the FAA, as every other airline that has flown the MAX since the ungrounding was already previously flying the type. When AS took delivery of its first 737-9 MAX back on January 24, the carrier was also the first new customer to take delivery of a MAX aircraft.
Since that delivery took place, the carrier has been putting this plane through its paces having flown ‘proving run’ flights and taking this plane as far west as Kona, Hawaii, and to the east coast flying into Charleston, South Carolina. On these flights, the pilots flew the aircraft 19,000 miles clocking more than 50 hours.
Alaska Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX Execution, Preparation
As part of an established process when bringing a new aircraft into its fleet, AS demonstrated to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) that it was safely ready to operate the new type. The agency gave the airline high marks for its execution and preparation for the type to go into service.
The initial AS operation with just one MAX in service, three overall delivered, is to have N913AK fly Seattle to San Diego and back, then down to Los Angeles and back. Plans are for the second Boeing 737 MAX, N918AK, to enter service on March 18. The third (N915AK) and fourth (N919AK) are tentatively scheduled to enter service on April 4. Once it has all four in operation, five airports will see the type, Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, and San Diego.
Alaska Airlines’ Modern Fleet
Alaska Airlines is modernizing its fleet and has a total of 68 Boeing 737-9 MAX on order to be delivered between January 2021 and the end of 2024. The carrier also has the option to purchase another 52 737 MAX for delivery between 2023 to 2026. In total, AS could have a grand total of 120 737 MAX flying for them in the next five years.
While AS will be flying fewer aircraft even after this pandemic is over, it will actually offer more seats than before as these aircraft, with the initial batch mainly being used to replace the A320 fleet, seat significantly more passengers all while being more environmentally friendly.
MAX Safety, Training Measures
Since the grounding happened back in 2018, Boeing has made significant improvements to the type and additional safety measures have been incorporated. Including system redundancies and processes that give pilots more control, AS believes that Boeing has made the required necessary updates.
In addition, AS pilots and maintenance technicians have all undergone additional training related specifically to the type. The carrier has gone as far as making one of its simulators a MAX sim where the pilots are trained to handle hundreds of situations related to the aircraft and the simulator reacts the exact same as the real plane would.
Alaska Airlines also noted that for guests who do not feel comfortable flying on a Boeing 737 MAX right now, the carrier will work with these passengers and if requested move them to a different flight on an aircraft that is not a MAX without any change fees.
Featured image: Alaska Airlines new Boeing 737 MAX 9. Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways