Monday, December 26, 2016

Alaska Airlines now has Boeing and Airbus jets after Virgin merger

SEATTLE -- The merger of Alaska Airlines and Virgin America brings an interesting new dynamic that Seattle-based Alaska has to navigate. It's now responsible for a fleet of jetliners from two different aerospace giants.

Emblazoned on the nose of each of its Alaska's 737s are these words.  "Proudly all Boeing." Virgin America, flys the competing plane, the Airbus 320.

"So we'll be a two fleet airline. We'll have Airbus airplanes at Virgin America. We'll have Boeing at Alaska. And I think like any business, we're going to take a few months time and we'll sit down with both manufacturers in the months ahead and talk to them about 'Is it better for us to move to an all Boeing fleet on the Virgin side, or is it better for us to continue to operate these two fleet types?'" said Brad Tilden, Alaska Airlines president and CEO.

Different airlines take different approaches to their fleets. Southwest only flies the 737. With more than 700 jets, it's the third largest airline in the country. Delta, with more than 800 planes, flies ten different types of jets. 

For Alaska, what makes the most sense?

"That's a logical business process that we need to go through and we will go through it in the months ahead," said Tilden.

Different planes can limit an airline's flexibility. Most airline pilots are only certified to fly one type of plane at a time. They can -- and do -- switch, but that involves additional training and cost. Mechanics also need to keep more spare parts on hand. 

And Alaska is now expanding internationally with the merger. The biggest addition for Alaska in all this is a larger footprint in California. But Tilden says there was a time when the company didn't think it was going to fly to Hawaii as it does now. Nor did it think it would fly east of the Rocky Mountains, much less to New York or Florida and, soon, Cuba.


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