Alaska Airlines has announced it will grow its fleet options early with a 12 Boeing 737-9 firm jet order, as the carrier inches closer to a single-aisle dominated fleet.
In a statement, the airline said the addition will increase its total firm order of the aircraft to 93 jets.
The announcement is part of a deal made last December when Alaska said it would acquire 68 737-9 jets between this year and 2024.
The Washington-based carrier said it still has options to receive another 52 deliveries between 2023 and 2026.
“We are excited to accelerate Alaska’s growth, building on our solid financial foundation that enabled us to weather the pandemic,” said Nat Pieper, Alaska Airlines senior vice president of fleet, finance and alliances.
The company received its first delivery of the 737-9 MAX in January, the first phase of modernising its company to be a Boeing dominated fleet.
According to Planespotters, Alaska operates 171 Boeing 737 jets – 78 are the 737-900ER and 61 are the 737-800.
The airline operates a smaller amount of Airbus’s A320 and A321 aircraft, but last year the company announced it would retire most by 2023.
Pieper praised the MAX for “exceeding our expectations – from how quiet the engines run to the greater range they provide – and our guests love them”.
CNBC said chief executive Brad Tilden did not disclose the specifics of the deal, but said that nine of the orders are white tails, which have never been built.
In December last year, Alaska announced its fleet renewal with Boeing, set to receive 13 jets in 2021, 30 in 2022, 13 in 2023, and 12 in 2024.
The move was to push the airline towards a narrow-body fleet “that’s more efficient, profitable and environmentally friendly”, according to a statement in December from Alaska Airlines.
“We said: What is it we can do to fundamentally and permanently take advantage of this crisis and improve the competitive position of Alaska?” said Tilden to CNBC.
“We said if we can largely get back to a single fleet, that would be in our interest.”
Many airlines have switched to narrow-body jets since the pandemic due to cheaper operating costs and lower international travel.
Following the recertification of the 737 MAX jets after the two-year groundings, numerous airlines have jumped at making substantial orders for the jet in the last few months.
Alaska now remains one of Boeing’s most vital customers as it transitions to being a solely Boeing aircraft operator.
Alaska will not have to pay for the jets until next year as part of pre-delivery deposits the airline gave Boeing for pending orders before the MAX was grounded in 2019.