Alaska Airlines may be preparing to open their checkbook and order more Boeing 737 MAXs. The North American airline already has 32 MAXs on order. The size of any new order is unknown, and the deal remains in the negotiating stage, but any new 737 MAX order would be a welcome boost for Boeing and its beleaguered MAX program.
Alaska Airlines remains a 737 MAX fan
Alaska Airlines originally ordered 20 737 MAX 8s and 17 737 MAX 9s in 2012. While several of them were due to be delivered by now, none have yet arrived. Boeing’s order book shows the original has since shrunk to 32 MAXs.
Arguably, the airline has dodged a bullet there as airlines worldwide pay to store and maintain grounded MAX aircraft. But Alaska Airlines has remained keen on the MAX. As recently as July, its CEO, Brad Tilden, spoke up for the aircraft type and its manufacturer.
I don’t feel any reservation at all about the Boeing Company’s commitment to safety,” Mr Tilden said.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Airbus or GE or others, but I just think the commitment to safety in this industry is deep, and I think that context has been lost in a lot of this conversation over the last year and a half.”
Is Alaska Airlines looking to buy more MAXs?
Mr Tilden’s enthusiasm for the MAX continues judging by a Reuters report from earlier today. That report says Boeing is talking to Alaska Airlines about selling them more MAXs once the aircraft is cleared to fly again.
Neither Boeing nor Alaska Airlines would confirm the talks. However, Reuters cites multiple sources close to the discussions.
The number of new MAXs Alaska Airlines might order is unknown. But if the report is correct, Alaska Airlines joins a list of several airlines Boeing is talking to about rebooting their MAX program.
To date, Boeing has delivered 386 MAX aircraft to customers around the world. A further 4,117 remain outstanding. After two fatal crashes, authorities around the world grounded the 737 MAX in March 2019. After 18 months, the aircraft is yet to get approval to fly again.
The prognosis for the MAX and the broader aviation industry deteriorated further as 2020 unfolded. Just weeks ago, the Federal Aviation Administration said it was satisfied with the MAX, but recertification remained some way off. The FAA declined to give a firm date on when they will clear the MAX to fly again.
Alaska Airlines maintains altitude in a tough year
Meanwhile, the airline industry is facing its most challenging year ever. But Alaska Airlines has done better than many of its North American peers. Its balance sheet remains in decent shape, and in recent days it has reversed plans to layoff many of its employees.
Against this background, reports from a few months ago indicated Alaska Airlines was talking about placing a significant order for single-aisle jets. On the shortlist were 737 MAX aircraft and the Airbus A321neo. But there is a view Alaska Airlines is leaning towards Boeing and an all Boeing fleet.
There is also an expectation Boeing would offer a very keen price should Alaska Airlines or any airline come to browse in their 737 MAX showroom.
Meanwhile, Boeing is hoping to resume deliveries of overdue MAXs to various North American customers by the end of the year.