Alaska Airlines said yesterday it was ordering 35 Boeing 737s, and Spain's Air Europa announced it will acquire 18 of the narrow-body jets...

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Alaska Airlines said yesterday it was ordering 35 Boeing 737s, and Spain’s Air Europa announced it will acquire 18 of the narrow-body jets.

Together the deals are worth $3.5 billion at list prices, though airlines typically negotiate steep discounts.

In addition to firm orders, Alaska Airlines took options to buy 15 additional 737-800s — reserving spots in the production line — and acquired purchase rights, subject to availability, for another 50 of the single-aisle jets.

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The 737-800 is a twin-engine jet that Alaska will configure into two classes to seat 157 people. Delivery of Alaska Airlines’ 35 new planes will be spread out over the next six years, with the first to enter Alaska’s fleet in January 2006. The order includes three 737-800s that the airline already planned to acquire next year.

Brad Tilden, Alaska’s chief financial officer, said the airline made its first major order since the late 1990s to position itself to grow in an increasingly competitive market.

The order came a month after the airline laid off nearly 500 baggage handlers and other ramp workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in a move to save $13 million a year.

Tilden said the airline had to make both moves — the layoffs and the plane orders — to shore up its long-term growth potential.

“We don’t see this as an environment where an airline can successfully tread water,” Tilden said.

Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Caroline Boren said the company has focused much of its cost-cutting efforts on non-labor expenses over the past few years, aiming to minimize layoffs.

Alaska’s fleet includes 109 aircraft, most of them in the 737 family, and 26 Boeing MD-80s.

Alaska, the nation’s ninth-largest carrier, and its sister airline, Horizon Air, serve more than 80 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Air Europa, Spain’s second-largest carrier, flies to roughly 40 destinations, about half of them in Spain. Its agreement included options for an additional 12 737-800s.

Since the Paris Air Show started Monday, Boeing has announced orders for 146 planes — most of them 737s. Its chief rival, Toulouse, France-based Airbus, has announced 112 and says more deals are likely later in the week.