Alaska Airways makes a giant Boeing guess on an enlarged 737 Max order, the primary U.S. sale for the reason that jets have been launched after crashes


Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-990 takes off from Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California on November 10, 2020.

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Alaska Airlines has agreed to purchase nearly two dozen additional Boeing 737 Max aircraft. This is the first order from a U.S. airline since regulators re-released the planes after two fatal crashes last month.

Alaska said Tuesday it will ship 68 of the 737 Max 9 aircraft, of the 32 previously ordered. 23 of these will be bought by Boeing and 13 more will be leased from Air Lease.

The Federal Aviation Administration last month overturned a basic order on the aircraft that was put in place after two nearly new Max jetliners crashed in 2018 and 2019, killing all 346 people aboard the two flights.

Boeing struggled with its nearly two-year experience of the coronavirus crisis and cut demand – and prices – for its aircraft.

CEO Brad Tilden declined to disclose the price of the aircraft, but told CNBC that nine of the Max jetliners he bought are so-called white tails, aircraft that were built but do not have an owner.

Alaska, based in Seattle near Boeing’s Max manufacturing facility, has the option to purchase an additional 52 aircraft as it moves to an almost exclusively Boeing fleet in the coming years. Thanks to the merger with Virgin America in 2016, the airline had a fleet of Boeing and Airbus jets.

The airline is now starting to train its pilots, including Airbus pilots, on the Max. According to Tilden, the company has 830 of around 3,000 pilots trained in Airbus, which will decrease to around 145 by the end of summer 2023.

European low-cost airline Ryanair announced an order for 75 Max jets for its 135 aircraft order earlier this month, the largest order in two years.

Alaska plans to fly the Max in the first quarter and to receive its first Max jet in January. At the time of landing in March 2019, none of the aircraft had received it.

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