The SEA-based carrier is debuting the aircraft in its network; while it is a major MAX customer, it had not flown the Boeing model prior to the aircraft type being grounded in March 2019. The airline's second 737-9 is expected to enter service later in March.
The MAX “is a significant part of our future,” Alaska Airlines president Ben Minicucci said when the airline took delivery of its first MAX in late January. “We believe in it, we believe in Boeing and we believe in our employees who will spend the next five weeks in training to ensure we're ready to safely fly our guests."
Alaska said it conducted “rigorous rounds of test flying” with the MAX before placing it in revenue service. “Alaska's pilots will put the 737-9 through its paces, flying it more than 50 flight hours and roughly 19,000 miles around the country, including to Alaska and Hawaii,” the airline said in January.
Alaska has historically been an all-Boeing 737 operator, though it inherited Airbus A320 family aircraft when it acquired Virgin America in 2016. Alaska will receive 68 737-9 MAX aircraft over the next four years, including 13 this year. “These 68 aircraft will largely replace Alaska's Airbus fleet and move the airline substantially toward a single, mainline fleet that's more efficient, profitable and environmentally friendly,” Alaska said.
Photo credit: Alaska Airlines