Alaska Air Cargo betting on converted freighters for business boost

Alaska Air Cargo is improving its booking system and investing in infrastructure

Alaska Air Cargo betting on converted freighters for business boost

Photo Credit: Ingrid Barrentine / Alaska Airlines

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Alaska Air Cargo is looking ahead to improvements in its cargo booking system, an expanded freighter fleet and reinforced infrastructure in the coming months this year.

"We launched the first phase of our new end-to-end cargo management system in October, and we converted two passenger 737-800 aircraft to dedicated freighters," Adam Drouhard, Managing Director, Alaska Air Cargo said in his latest update. "We invested in infrastructure and equipment at stations across the state of Alaska."

The changes, Drouhard added, brought disruptions to operations along with January’s temporary grounding of the 737-9 MAX aircraft and winter weather challenges.

A door plug of Alaska Airlines' flight 1282, a Boeing 737 Max 9 plane, blew out mid-air on January 5, 2024. While some were injured, all the 177 passengers and crew survived the accident on the flight from Portland, Oregon to Ontario, California.

Adam Drouhard, Managing Director, Alaska Air Cargo

Listing out the action plan for 2024, Drouhard says:

"Improvements to cargo bookings: Throughout the year, we will roll out updates to our online system to make it more efficient and streamlined for customers and our employees.

*Expanded and reliable freighter fleet: We are working closely with Boeing to ensure that our new 737-800BCF freighters will perform at the level required to serve our customers.  We expect both freighters to enter service over the next few weeks.

*Reinforced infrastructure: The plane is only part of the equation for the communities we serve. Our investments in infrastructure and equipment like new cargo loaders will enable our services to be more robust and reliable at every station."

Both the converted 737-800BCFs are likely to be deployed later this spring, he added, "allowing us to better serve our customers in 20 communities across the state of Alaska and beyond."

"With these new bigger, more efficient 737-800s, we are excited to launch dedicated freighter service between Anchorage and Los Angeles through Seattle. This is the first time our freighters will fly beyond Alaska or Seattle, and it’s an exciting moment for our team. Many of the goods that Alaska residents depend on come from Southern California, and this new service will streamline the supply chain bringing those products into Alaska and across the state. The expanded freighter routes will also create faster connections for seafood and other products shipping out of Alaska."

The two freighters can carry 10,000 more pounds (more than 4,500 kgs) than Alaska's three 737-700 freighters, Drouhard added. "Many of the groceries, household goods and essential medicine shipping into the state of Alaska come from Southern California, and this new freighter route will streamline that supply chain."

The bigger freighters will also be in full service in time for the height of the salmon fishing season, allowing fresh sustainable sockeye from Bristol Bay and other fisheries to reach markets across the lower 48 more quickly.

As Alaska Air Cargo looks forward to the potential opportunity to expand service to Hawai’i – "another state uniquely reliant on air cargo – we will draw on our experience in the state of Alaska to listen to local communities and create supply-chain solutions that best meet their needs."

Alaska Q1 net loss at $132mn
Alaska Airlines reported a net loss of $132 million for the first quarter of 2024 on operating revenue of $2.2 billion. Cargo and other revenue increased 10 percent to $64 million.

"Air Group's first quarter operation and results were significantly impacted by Flight 1282 in January and the Boeing 737-9 MAX grounding which extended into February. The company has received $162 million in initial cash compensation from Boeing to address the financial damages incurred during the first quarter."

"I want to recognize Alaska's employees for their uncompromising prioritisation of safety, for taking great care of our guests, and for delivering strong performance in the first quarter," says Ben Minicucci, CEO, Alaska Airlines. "Despite significant challenges to start the year, our results have far exceeded initial expectations. Thanks to thoughtful capacity planning, network optimisation and diligent cost control, we are well positioned to carry our strong performance into the second quarter and beyond."

Alaska Airlines agreed to purchase Hawaiian Airlines for $18 per share , and the proposal was approved by Hawaiian shareholders. "Completed inspections of all 737-9 MAX aircraft and returned the fleet to service in February, and enhanced quality oversight programme at the Boeing production facility to validate the work and quality of our aircraft as they progress through the manufacturing process."

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