13mar2006 SEATTLE Alaska Airlines today announced that the Alaska Air Group Board of Directors has authorized a plan to transition the airline to a fleet of all-Boeing 737 aircraft by the end of 2008. The board's action will accelerate the retirement of the airline's MD-80 fleet.

To accomplish the transition, Alaska now anticipates taking delivery of 39 737-800s between 2006 and 2008, including the two aircraft that have already been delivered in 2006. In addition to these airplanes, Alaska has firm commitments for 13 aircraft, options for 24 and purchase rights for 27 in 2009 and beyond.

"This decision represents a major milestone in our transformation and moves us significantly along the path toward becoming an undisputed leader in our industry. Having a common fleet and growing with next-generation, fuel-efficient Boeing 737s will make a major difference in our operating costs, fleet reliability and the onboard experience for our customers," said Bill Ayer, Alaska's chairman and chief executive officer. "This move represents a significant upfront investment and will continue our momentum toward sustained profitability, growth and long-term job security and career opportunities for our employees."

The plan to retire the airline's 26 MD-80 aircraft by the end of 2008 will require an investment of approximately $750 million. It is expected to save more than $115 million per year in operating expenses once the transition is complete, primarily by lowering costs for fuel, maintenance, training and crew scheduling.