Notably, as a result of the updates, the airline will keep its Boeing 737-9s grounded, which backtracks on a statement by the airline revealed hours after the incident occurred.
The company believed it would initially be able to return the type to service far sooner. This stance came following the carrier inspecting several units’ plug doors.
Inspections Taking Place
Alaska Airlines says that a total of 18 of its fleet of 737-9 aircraft have received an in-depth inspection of what they describe as taking place during “heavy maintenance checks.”
These aircraft continued in service until the Federal Aviation Administration issued their Emergency Airworthiness Directive. This was a backtrack, therefore, on what Alaska Airlines had hoped would occur.
The Boeing 737-9s initially expected to return to service are now being grounded again, with details required regarding obtaining the crucial approval.
Alaska Airlines notes they are in communication with the Federal Aviation Administration over the investigation and will be as cooperative as possible to ensure a seamless investigation.
Grounding To Be Longer Than Expected?
Following the grounding, Alaska Airlines expects disruptions to extend towards mid-week. However, this is subject to change and permits developments from the ongoing NTSB investigation and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Initially, Alaska Airlines believed the aircraft would return to service relatively quickly following their inspections on the type.
However, an EAD from the FAA that emerged stopped the airline in its tracks and resulted in the fleet coming to a halt.
The Customer Impact
Alaska Airlines says that as of 4 PM PT on the 6th of January 2024, it had cancelled 160 total flights, affecting roughly 23,000 guests.
The expectation is that this number will grow over the coming days, with the company looking towards rebooking passengers wherever possible and offering a flexible policy to cater to impacted travellers.
A Reliance On The 737 MAX
The Boeing 737 MAX has a massive place within the Alaska Airlines fleet, alongside operations with the 737NG. The company relies solely on this family for its mainline services.
Towards the backend of 2023, Alaska Airlines finally bid farewell to Airbus-produced aircraft it acquired through a merger with Virgin America in the 2010s.
The airline had always wanted to move back towards all-Boeing for its mainline. However, now onlookers say this is coming back to bite them.
The Boeing 737 family offers the U.S. carrier much flexibility and commonality across the fleet. However, analysts have warned of the potential negative implications of reliance on a single aircraft family in such situations.