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Alaska Airlines to renew Airbus jets inherited from Virgin America

Seattle, Washington - Alaska Airlines has to make a choice between Boeing and Airbus to renew the narrow-body jets in its fleet that were inherited after the acquisition of Virgin America.

The all-Boeing operator Alaska incorporated 71 single-aisle Airbus jetliners (10 A319, 51 A320, and 10 A321neo)) after its merger with Virgin America. The airline now wants to replace them with larger and more efficient narrow-body jets from Airbus or Boeing.

We have an opportunity to replace 61 A319 and A320 aircraft with larger gauge, more efficient assets, either 737 MAX 9 and 737 MAX 10 or A321neo, all of which would give us the ability to generate more revenue while lowering unit costs. The economics of up gauging over the next several years are compelling, and we're looking forward to finalizing plans to do this is one of our main 2020 objectives,

said Alaska Air Group's Executive Vice President Shane Tackett, said during the introduction of quarterly earnings.

Alaska Airlines' A319-100s are 12.3 years old on average. The A320s are relatively younger, they are 9.3 years old on average. The ten A321neo jets are 1.9 years old, and they are not slated for replacement in the near future.

The airline also said the ongoing 737 MAX grounding is not an underlined factor in the airline's decision.

Boeing's challenges with the MAX did cause us to rework the sequencing of events and some of our timing. But we're confident that over the next six to nine months, we're going to come with a good decision for Alaska. Later this quarter, we're going to start the acquisition process. We will work it through the summer, and we're confident we'll come up with an answer in the third quarter, fourth quarter of this year,

Senior Vice President (Fleet, Finance, and Alliances) Nathaniel Pieper added.

Only 10 A320-200s are owned by Alaska Airlines. The rest is leased from several companies. Before the merger, Alaska Airlines was an all-Boeing operator. The Tacoma-based carrier currently has 30 Airbus A320noe on order with the European aircraft manufacturer.