ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Feb. 1 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Alaska Airlines today introduced two Boeing 737-400 "combi" aircraft to its fleet to improve passenger and cargo service in the state of Alaska. The larger airplanes -- converted to transport passengers in the back and main-deck cargo in the front -- have more cargo capacity, more-advanced flight-guidance capabilities and more-comfortable passenger cabins than the 737-200 combis they replace.
The aircraft are part of Alaska Airlines' $100 million plan to upgrade its cargo fleet and infrastructure. The airline will add two more 737-400 combis to its fleet by the end of 2007. These converted aircraft and an all-cargo freighter introduced in June 2006 will provide about 20 percent more cargo capacity and passenger seats than the fleet of 737-200 aircraft they replace.
"These combis -- the first of their kind in the world -- are uniquely designed to meet the needs of both cargo customers and passengers throughout the state of Alaska," said Bill MacKay, Alaska Airlines' senior vice president for the state of Alaska. "By upgrading the fleet and modernizing cargo infrastructure, we are providing more cargo capacity, a more comfortable passenger experience and a more reliable flight schedule." The combis are the first 737-400 aircraft in the world to be converted from all-passenger to combination cargo-passenger configurations.
The 737-400s' fixed configurations, which accommodate four cargo pallets and 72 passengers, improve cargo service by guaranteeing consistent cargo capacity on each flight. The 737-200 combis they replace had adjustable configurations, which allowed Alaska to change the number of passenger seats and cargo-pallet positions for each flight, but prevented the airline from guaranteeing consistent cargo capacity.
The 737-400 combis offer improved fuel efficiency, more-advanced flight-guidance systems and upgraded passenger amenities. They are equipped with Required Navigation Performance systems designed to reduce the frequency of weather-related schedule disruptions. The passenger cabins also feature leather seats and larger, standard-sized overhead luggage bins.
The first two aircraft, scheduled to enter commercial service Feb. 2 and 3, will be routed throughout the state of Alaska with an emphasis on serving the northern and western Alaska points of Prudhoe Bay, Barrow, Kotzebue, Nome and Bethel. The 737-400 freighter directly supports the cargo needs of the state's seafood industry by flying routes in Southeast Alaska as well as between Anchorage and Seattle.
Introduced to Alaska Airlines' fleet as passenger aircraft in 1992, the combis were retrofitted by Pemco World Air Services. Pemco also retrofitted the 737-400 freighter and is in the process of retrofitting the two additional combis slated for delivery later this year. Alaska Airlines also maintains options with Pemco to convert a second freighter and fifth combi aircraft.
In mid-February Alaska Airlines also will introduce a new $3 million cargo shipment-management and accounting system. Using a centralized database, the system will provide more detailed cargo tracking information, automate customer billing and allow customers to make flight-specific cargo reservations.
Transporting more than 150 million pounds of cargo annually, including seafood, mail and freight, Alaska Airlines operates the most extensive air cargo operation on the U.S. West Coast of any passenger airline. The airline's cargo operation transports about 30 million pounds of fresh Alaska seafood each year from Alaska to Seattle, the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
Alaska Airlines and sister carrier, Horizon Air, together serve 89 cities through an expansive network throughout Alaska, the Lower 48, Canada and Mexico. This year Alaska Airlines celebrates its 75th anniversary, marking the airline's growth from a single-aircraft operation in 1932 to one of the largest U.S. carriers. For reservations, visit alaskaair.com. For more news and information, visit the Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Newsroom at alaskaair.com/newsroom.
Pemco World Air Services is a subsidiary of Pemco Aviation Group, Inc., which performs maintenance and modification of aircraft for the U.S. Government and foreign and domestic commercial customers. The company also provides aircraft parts and support and engineering services and develops and manufactures aircraft cargo systems, rocket vehicles, control systems and components.
SOURCE Alaska Airlines
CONTACT: Amanda Tobin Bielawski, +1-206-392-5134; Caroline Boren, +1-206-392-5799, both of Alaska Airlines