Oct. 9, 2020, (c) Airfinance Journal: Alaska Airlines is believed to be working on a solution regarding its narrowbody fleet composition after initial talks failed with lessors regarding an early phase-out of Airbus A320-family aircraft.The US carrier approached leasing companies in the summer with a large request for proposals (RFP) to replace its entire leased current-generation A320-family fleet with Boeing 737-800, -900ER, Max 8 and Max 9 models over the next few years.
According to Airfinance Journal‘s Fleet Tracker, Alaska has 10 A319s with leases expiring between 2021 and 2023. Another 41 A320s have leases expiring between 2020 and 2025.
But the objective of the RFP is to accelerate the exit of the carrier’s 51 A320-family aircraft ahead of lease expirations as well as sell 10 owned A320s that were manufactured in 2015 and 2016.
But leasing sources talking to Airfinance Journal say the approach was not “well received”.
“They may keep those aircraft to scheduled redelivery dates,” says one lessor.
Another lessor confirms plans are off the table.
He comments: “They may have realised the difficulty in finding feedstock, but also the costs associated with the rents and return conditions on their existing Airbus fleet. This could prove a very expensive exercise.”
The leasing source adds that 737NG are easier to remarket than A320s at the moment because of cargo appetite for the former.
Alaska Air told Airfinance Journal: “As we resize our fleet to reflect the reduced demand environment, we will prioritise efficiency to determine which aircraft to operate. It’s too soon to call whether that means single-fleet or dual-fleet for the long run.”
In the summer, another leasing source told Airfinance Journal that while the approach made sense, finding the aircraft to accommodate it was difficult.
“Lessors will need feedstock for this RFP. We don’t have a Next Generation aircraft available before 2022,” he said.
Still, the US carrier could proceed with plans to sell its 10 owned A320s.
One source tells Airfinance Journal that some lessors could be interested in trading those aircraft back, given their age, and placing some Max units on operating leases as a trade.
Alaska Air is also rumoured to be in negotiations with Boeing regarding its delivery schedule for its Max fleets.
Should the carrier keep its A320-family fleet until lease expiration, its intention would be to match incoming new aircraft with retirements. Boeing on the other hand may push for earlier placements to eat into the large inventory of Max aircraft it has accumulated.
In its RFP Alaska Air was targeting 737-800 and 737-900ER replacement aircraft of seven years of age or less, but was also considering new Max 8/9 aircraft, white-tails or lightly used aircraft of those models.
One source says that reconfiguration costs could be key in any discussion with Boeing.
Boeing declined to comment.