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Alaska Airlines Restarts 737-9 MAX Flights: What You Need To Know

Alaska Airlines 737-9 MAX flights began again with the afternoon Seattle to San Diego flight on Friday, January 26. The airlne has finished the final checks on its first set of cleared Boeing 737-9 MAX planes as they gear up to return to commercial operations.

Alaska Airlines maintenance technicians inspect a Boeing 737-MAX 9 plug door prior to the aircraft returning to service. Photographed January 26, 2024 at SeaTac International Airport. Mandatory Credit: Ingrid Barrentine / Alaska Airlines

On January 24, the airline received the green light from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the Boeing 737-9 MAX to resume flying after approving the thorough inspection and maintenance protocol. Alaska Airlines’ technicians began the inspections immediately. The airline anticipates that all inspections will be finalized by the end of the coming week, enabling it to adhere to the planned flight schedule.

Only after completing these meticulous inspections and securing clearance for airworthiness from the FAA will each Boeing 737-9 MAX rejoin the fleet. The process for each plane can take as much as 12 hours.

FAA Approved Inspection and Maintenance Process for 737-9 MAX

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the process Alaska Airlines technicians will follow during rigorous inspections on the Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft. These checks are essential for aircraft safety and involve inspecting the door plugs on both sides of the aircraft.

Boeing 737-9 MAX Door Plug inspection and maintenance process:

  • Verify the installation integrity of the mid-cabin door plug by checking all components and measurements.
  • Examine the door plug for any signs of damage or irregularities, paying close attention to guide fittings, roller guides, hinges, nut plates, and fasteners.
  • After the inspection, securely replace and seal the door plug according to FAA standards before the plane can re-enter service.
  • Each detailed inspection, including precision measurements of components, may take 12 hours per aircraft.

Alaska Airlines Will Recheck Door Plugs In Service In the Future

Alaska Airlines Maintenance and Engineering departments will uphold stringent safety protocols by conducting thorough inspections of the aircraft’s door plugs on an ongoing basis. The airline has scheduled biennial assessments—every 24 months—as part of the comprehensive maintenance reviews that each airplane receives. Furthermore, additional inspections of the door plug will be performed on all newly acquired Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft immediately upon delivery, ensuring they adhere to safety standards.

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-MAX 9
Alaska Airlines maintenance technicians inspect a Boeing 737-MAX 9 plug door prior to the aircraft returning to service. Photographed January 26, 2024 at SeaTac International Airport. Mandatory Credit: Ingrid Barrentine / Alaska Airlines

Frequently Asked Questions on Alaska Airlines 737-MAX 9

Why does the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX have a door plug?

The Alaska Airlines 737-9 MAX carries 178 passengers in a three-class seating configuration.

  • 16 First Class seats
  • 24 Premium Class seats
  • 138 seats in the main cabin. 

Due to the low seat density of the aircraft, the airline is not required to have a middle emergency exit doors on the plane. For this reason, the space of the door opening on the fuselage is covered with a door plug which is hidden behind the wall panel.

The fasteners that hold this door plug in place failed during Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, allowing it to become detached. The exact cause of the failure is still under investigation by the NTSB.

After checking various of this aircraft type, both Alaska Airlines and United Airlines reported finding loose bolts on other aircraft.

How do you know if you’re scheduled to fly on an Alaska Airlines 737-9 MAX?

Find out the type of your aircraft easily when booking a flight at alaskaair.com, by checking the “Details” tab. Once you’ve booked, you can view this information in “Flight Details” within your reservation.

What happens if you don’t want to fly a 737-9 MAX as the planes return to service?

Alaska Airlines offers a Flexible Travel Policy for passengers until January 31. This policy allows travelers to easily change their plans if they’re hesitant to fly on the 737-9 MAX. Alaska Airlines commits to accommodating its customers by offering alternative flights on different aircraft upon request.

How long has Alaska Airlines been flying the 737-9 MAX?

The airline’s first 737-9 MAX launched service on a flight from Seattle to Los Angeles on March 1, 2021.

Message from Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci


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