Alaska Air eager to expand freighter fleet, faces delays due to MAX grounding

Alaska Air Cargo is looking to convert at least two more 737s currently operating in its passenger fleet to freighter configuration, but told Cargo Facts the continued grounding of the 737 MAX has made it difficult to secure approval to free up 737 NG conversion feedstock from its passenger fleet.  

Following the deployment of three IAI-converted 737-700Fs beginning in September 2017, the Seattle-based carrier is ready for a fourth, and likely a fifth freighter. Although Alaska’s cargo team would prefer to add a 737-800 to accommodate routes where the 737-700BDSFs “are bulking out,” demand for the -800 in passenger service is still high, said Torque Zubeck, Managing Director, Alaska Air Cargo. “With the MAX delays, it will be hard to spring one of those [737-800s] in the next 18 months or so.”  

Instead, the carrier is seeking approval to convert a fourth 737-700 with an -800 possible in the future. The carrier’s trio of freighters are heavily utilized in an intra-Alaska network with connections to Seattle (SEA). As Alaska grows its freighter fleet, it will open up options to add scheduled service to more destinations outside the state of Alaska and Seattle, said Zubeck. 

While no aircraft are currently slated to be inducted for conversion, “We would love to have a fourth freighter in 12-18 months. Whether I can get the business case signed off, is the question mark.

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