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Alaska receives first 737 MAX 8, plans retrofits for existing fleet


Alaska Airlines has reached a new milestone in a multiyear overhaul of its fleet.

The Seattle-based carrier recently took delivery of a new aircraft variant while detailing plans to overhaul dozens of existing jets.

The new plane is Alaska’s first Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. The company expects to take delivery of seven more this year, including four that are expected to join the fleet by March.

The arrival of the MAX 8 in Alaska’s fleet is one milestone in a much larger series of aircraft deliveries over the coming years, with Alaska spending billions to add between 15 and 25 new Boeing planes each year between now and 2027.

Alaska has firm orders for 80 more 737 MAX jets, with options and purchase rights for another 105. The plans include orders for more than 40 MAX 10s in the future.

Alaska 737 MAX 8 cabin configuration

Alaska’s new MAX 8s will seat 159 passengers, including 12 in its first-class cabin and 30 in its premium cabin, with 117 main-cabin seats.

Keep in mind that while the MAX 8 is new to Alaska’s fleet, the 737 MAX itself isn’t. The carrier currently flies 65 MAX 9s — second most of any aircraft in its fleet.

An Alaska Boeing 737 MAX 9 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Though the MAX 9 carries more passengers, the MAX 8 has a longer range. Company executives have teased the jet as a key future player on high-performing routes, creating “new opportunities for us to fly longer nonstop routes,” Nat Pieper, Alaska’s senior vice president of fleet, finance and alliances, said in a statement announcing the news.

In fact, the carrier has already unveiled plans for a new, soon-to-be longest route in its network. Beginning in June, Alaska will fly the MAX 8 between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) in Alaska.

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737-800 refresh on the way

A first-class cabin on an Alaska plane. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

On top of welcoming new jets to its fleet, Alaska is also planning an overhaul for the dozens of its older Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

The company is investing $130 million to overhaul its cabins, citing a need to offer a consistent product — and to make the interior of its 737-800s look more like the new 737 MAX 8s and MAX 9s.

For starters, Alaska’s 737-800s will get two additional seats, shifting from a capacity of 159 passengers to 161.

The biggest shift will be in first class, though, which will move from 12 seats to 16 — a 33% increase.

Cabinwide, the planes will get new seat covers, cushions, carpet, lighting, bulkheads, cabin dividers and seatback device holders, a company spokesperson told TPG.

The retrofits will get underway on 20 of the 737-800s this month, with all of those aircraft getting “some form of new interior” by 2025, according to Alaska officials.

An even larger future expansion

An Alaska Airlines plane lands in Juneau, Alaska. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

Of course, the addition of new Boeing aircraft to Alaska’s fleet is merely one aspect of the company’s future growth plans.

After all, Alaska last month unveiled plans to acquire Hawaiian Airlines in a $1.9 billion deal — though the two carriers would continue to fly as separate, distinct brands under the plan.

The arrangement would see the combined company fly 360-plus aircraft, Alaska executives told investors in December.

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