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Alaska swaps 737 Max 8 orders for larger Max 9

Alaska Airlines has converted its orders for the Boeing 737 Max 8 to the larger Max 9, as part of a larger restructuring of its 737 orderbook.

The Seattle-based carrier converted its 15 737-8 orders to the larger variant, bringing its firm commitments for the Max 9 to 32, during the first quarter, a financial filing shows. It also has 11 737-900ER orders.

Alaska will take its first Max in 2019 with deliveries continuing through 2023.

The 737-9 seats up to 193 passengers in a two-class configuration versus to 178 passengers on the 737-8, Boeing's website shows. Both models have the same 3,550nm range.

Alaska has also deferred a number of aircraft deliveries, spreading them out over the next three years, said chief financial officer Brandon Pedersen in April. It has cut 2019 deliveries in half to 12 aircraft - one Airbus A321neo, seven 737s and four Embraer 175s - from the 24 that were scheduled at the end of 2017.

The airline has balanced its aircraft capital commitments through 2022 with the deferrals. Commitments range from $500-600 million annually from 2019 to 2021, and then drop to $303 million in 2022, the filing shows.

Prior to the deferral, aircraft commitments peaked at $816 million in 2019, then fell steadily to $377 million in 2020, $268 million in 2021 and $193 million in 2022.

Alaska declines to comment further on the aircraft deferrals.

The carrier plans to grow capacity by roughly 4% in 2019 and 2020, after a forecast 6.5% increase this year.

Alaska's 2018 deliveries remain unchanged. It expects two more A321neos, seven 737-900ERs and 22 E175s through the end of the year, after taking one A321neo, two 737-900ERs and three E175s in the first quarter.

Alaska subsidiary Horizon Air and regional affiliate SkyWest Airlines operate the E175s.

Cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities at Alaska decreased 5.6% to $1.62 billion during the first quarter. Cash was down 10.5% year over year.

Liquidity stood at $1.93 billion at the end of March, the filing shows. The airline had $400 million available under its $475 million in credit facilities.

Long-term debt, net current maturities, decreased 8.8% to $2.06 billion during the first quarter. Debt was down 18.6% compared to March 2017.

Alaska invested $235 million in capital expenditures during the quarter ending in March.

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