Alaska Airlines no longer has an order for 30 Airbus A320neo aircraft on the books. Airbus released updated orders and deliveries numbers of October with no Airbus A320neo orders recorded for Alaska Airlines. Further, Alaska Airlines also has indicated it no longer has any Airbus aircraft orders remaining.
Alaska Airlines no longer has A320neo orders
Alaska Airlines used to have an order for 30 Airbus A320neo aircraft on the books. The airline had never taken delivery of a single plane from this order as it wanted to move to a more streamlined fleet centered around the Boeing 737 MAX fleet. However, it maintained the order for quite some time before finally now canceling it.
Airbus no longer counts Alaska as an Airbus A320neo customer as of its latest October orders and deliveries report. Furthermore, in a quarter filing released on Thursday, Alaska Airlines detailed its order book as consisting only of 74 firm Boeing 737 MAX 9s and 12 firm Embraer E175s. The airline previously listed the Airbus A320neo as part of its firm order book, which is now absent.
Alaska’s Airbus A320neo orders
Alaska Airlines inherited an order for 30 Airbus A320neo aircraft when it acquired Virgin America. While the two airlines had complementary route networks, it became clear that the fleet would be a problem. Alaska Airlines had an all-Boeing fleet while Virgin America had an all-Airbus fleet.
Until 2020 hit, Alaska Airlines was operating a mixed fleet. It did not have enough Boeing aircraft on order to officially announce retirement dates for the Airbus A320 fleet, and the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX clouded some of that planning.
Boeing was a financial supporter of the Virgin America acquisition as well. In a report in the Seattle Times, former CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Ray Conner, stated that Boeing had provided Alaska a $400 million loan secured by Alaska’s existing 737 MAX commitments. The relationship between Alaska and Boeing was quite strong. The slogan “Proudly All Boeing” was also plastered at the nose of its Boeing mainline fleet.
The Airbus orders remained on the book, but the carrier defined them as a “cancelable” order. At the latest schedule, the first of these aircraft were scheduled for delivery starting in 2024. However, it became evident in December that Alaska would not be taking on any of these Airbus A320neo aircraft orders.
Alaska and the Boeing 737 MAX
Alaska Airlines first started its real transition back to an all-Boeing fleet in November of 2020. The airline announced a new transaction that would lead to the swap of 10 Airbus A320ceos from Alaska’s fleet in favor of leases for 13 new Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft from Air Lease Corporation.
In December, Alaska Airlines announced an upsize of its Boeing 737 MAX order to total 68 new aircraft on order. This included the 737 MAX leases announced in November. At that time, Alaska Airlines also announced it would accelerate its Airbus retirements, so all of those aircraft would exit the fleet by 2023, all in favor of the 737 MAX. Alaska also made it clear it had no plans to take on any of those A320neos on the books.
Alaska added some firm 737 MAX aircraft a few times this year and also backfilled some options. It has a history of taking all of its order options, which could be a huge deal for its fleet, and may also help facilitate a renewal of the 737 Next Generation fleet in favor of the MAX aircraft.
Maintaining the Airbus A320neo order book had some competitive advantage for Alaska. If Boeing was somehow unable to fulfill its fleet needs, it could look to Airbus to renegotiate a price that would keep Alaska flying a mixed fleet without taking on the added cost pressures. Ultimately, Alaska and Boeing reached agreements that worked, so it became clear the Airbus deal would not last.
The one Airbus type that will stay in Alaska’s fleet for at least the next few years are the Airbus A321neos. Alaska has ten of these planes in its fleet with no clear way to get them out of the fleet. For now, Alaska will keep them flying. But, without the A320neo on the books, Alaska is further stressing its preference for an all-Boeing fleet.