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Fri, Aug 29, 2008

Alaska Airlines Retires Last MD-80, Completes Transition To All-Boeing Fleet

Airline's Latest 737-800 Christened 'Spirit Of Seattle'

Good riddance to old Mad-Dogs. On Thursday, Alaska Airlines completed its transition to an all-Boeing 737 aircraft fleet with the retirement of its last MD-80 series airplane, part of a ramped-up plan to increase the airline's operational efficiency and improve fuel conservation.

"With the last of our MD-80s retiring today and scheduled deliveries of additional new Boeing 737-800s this year, Alaska Airlines now operates one of the youngest, most fuel-efficient and technologically advanced fleets in the industry," said Bill Ayer, Alaska's chairman and chief executive officer. "Our all-Boeing fleet will make a major difference in customer comfort, fleet reliability and operating costs, at a time when it matters most."

Alaska notes the 737-800 burns 850 gallons of fuel per hour, versus 1,100 gallons per hour by the MD-80. A common fleet type also will result in lower costs for maintenance, training and flight crew scheduling.

As the airline's last MD-80 circled Washington state's Mount Rainer in a symbolic final flight, it was joined in the sky by a newly-delivered Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 airplane, dubbed the "Spirit of Seattle" in tribute to the airline's now all-Boeing fleet and unique hometown partnership with the airplane manufacturer. The airliner sports a unique combination of Boeing's fleet-standard colors, with the distinctive Alaska Airlines logo on its tail.

"Your newest Next-Generation 737, with its commemorative livery, is symbolic of our great working together relationship," said Mark Jenkins, Boeing 737 vice president and general manager. "Boeing is committed to Alaska Airlines' success, and we're proud to be your hometown partner."

Alaska's 737s are equipped with Required Navigation Performance precision approach technology and Head-up Guidance Systems, which allow takeoffs and landings in low-visibility conditions. The airline's 737s also are equipped with Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, which alerts pilots of ground obstacles.

The airline has firm commitments for an additional eight Boeing 737-800s through 2008, which will bring its fleet to 116 Boeing 737 aircraft. That compares to 26 MD-80s and 110 total aircraft at the onset of the airline's fleet transition in 2006.

Alaska Airlines acquired its first MD-80 aircraft, manufactured by Long Beach, CA-based McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft, in 1985, and once operated 44 of the jets. The MD-80, with its larger fuel tanks for extended range, was the cornerstone of the airline's expansion up and down the West Coast, as well as into Mexico and the Russian Far East during the 1980s and '90s.

FMI: www.alaskaair.com, www.boeing.com

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