Alaska Airlines Expands In-State Cargo Fleet with Two Planes
Alaska Air Cargo is converting two passenger jets to an all-freight configuration for cargo service in 2023.
Alaska Air Cargo is adding two Boeing 737-800 aircraft to its dedicated freighter fleet serving the company’s namesake state. These additions increase the freighter fleet from three to five aircraft.
Nearly Doubled Capacity
“Fleet expansion positions our growing cargo business to meet increased demand that we see from industry and consumers,” says Adam Drouhard, managing director for Alaska Air Cargo. “The -800 aircraft provides more load space than our current -700 freighters, essentially doubling Air Cargo’s total freighter lift capacity. We look forward to getting these -800s into service to support Alaska’s supply chain and connect cargo to over 100 cities we serve across North America.”
The two 737-800 converted aircraft will come from Alaska Airlines existing passenger fleet. The planes are being converted from their passenger configuration to an all-freight aircraft beginning this year. They’re projected to re-enter service as freighters in 2023.
The -800 aircraft provides a 40 percent capacity increase per departure over the current -700 aircraft with a payload of nearly 50,000 pounds. With a range of 2,800 nautical miles, the -800 will be the most fuel-efficient aircraft to serve intra-Alaska.
“Alaskans have always relied on Alaska Air Cargo to provide time-sensitive services to their communities,” says Marilyn Romano, regional vice president of Alaska Airlines. “Whether it is vaccines, medicine, household supplies, or fresh food, our freighters keep rural Alaska supplied and connected. With service to twenty communities across Alaska, and only three of those accessible by road, adding new aircraft to the current freighter fleet allows expansion of our vital services to all Alaskans. The additional freighter capacity also allows us to quickly move seafood and other commodities from Alaska to points throughout the US.”
Alaska Air Cargo transports more than 200 million pounds of cargo annually—including seafood, mail, and freight—and operates the most extensive air cargo operation on the US West Coast of any passenger airline.
The announcement was made on Investor Day for parent company Alaska Air Group, accompanied by an update on long-term growth strategy.
“Alaska’s team is committed to outperforming the industry, even while navigating a choppy pandemic recovery and near-term economic volatility,” says Shane Tackett, executive vice president finance and Chief Financial Officer of Alaska Air Group. “As people return to travel, they are choosing Alaska. And thanks to the caring spirit of our people, when guests try us, they tend to come back. We are excited for the path ahead and confident in our ability to continue creating value for our employees, guests, communities, and shareholders.”
Alaska Air Cargo currently uses the 737-700 model, pictured, for freight service in Alaska. The two passenger jets being converted to all-freight are the Boeing 737-800, a slightly larger model.
The company’s leadership team outlined the elements of Alaska Air Group’s strategic growth plan:
- Adding depth to the route network: Alaska plans to grow an average of 4 to 8 percent per year through 2025, in part by investing in the depth of its network. Alaska’s 1,200 flights per day take guests to 120 destinations across North and Central America. Alaska’s network has consistently produced industry-leading margins throughout its history and its measured approach to bringing capacity back post-pandemic, enabled a return to profitability ahead of the industry.
- Operating a single, more efficient fleet: The company is accelerating the transition of its fleet of more than 300 aircraft to all-Boeing 737 for its mainline operations and all-Embraer E175 jets for regional operations, by the end of 2023. Consistent with Alaska’s low-cost high productivity mindset, these transitions are expected to drive significant economic benefits. As the fleet grows to 400 aircraft by mid-decade, these will manifest through operational simplicity, flexibility and scalability, better fuel efficiency, and reduced maintenance costs.
- Delivering best-in-class care: The company continues to invest in developing its people through its Pathways program, which cultivates talent from regional to mainline operations. In addition, it is developing the next generation of pilots and training existing employees for new jobs through its Ascend Pilot Academy. The company is also committed to making measurable progress on initiatives to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. The company also is investing $2.3 billion in infrastructure improvements at four of its main hubs—Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles—for a more enjoyable travel experience by providing access to more gates and state-of-the-art lounges and lobbies.
- Growing Alaska’s award-winning loyalty program with a renewed co-branded partnership: Alaska Airlines and Bank of America are extending their co-branded credit card agreement through 2030. This agreement will enhance benefits for guests and drive improved profitability. Alaska’s Mileage Plan is considered the industry’s most generous loyalty rewards program, with miles earned based on flight distance rather than dollars spent.
Yesterday, Aviation Week Network’s Air Transport World (ATW) named Alaska its Airline of the Year for 2022, the top honor awarded among the 48th Annual ATW Airline Industry Achievement Awards, citing the company’s unique strengths and leading performance.
“We’re honored to be recognized by Air Transport World as the Airline of the Year—a testament to our people and to everything they’ve accomplished through the last few tumultuous years,” says Ben Minicucci, CEO of Alaska Air Group. “Throughout our history, Alaska has consistently outperformed the industry, and we’re well positioned to continue that trend, leveraging loyalty, alliances, network growth and our brand to unlock significant value and deliver $400 million of incremental revenue as part of our 2025 strategic plan.”