If an airline orders more than 100 new aircraft, then two months later says 95% of its annual maintenance and engineering contracted work is up for retender by 2017, the industry should take note.

While EasyJet did exactly this in July and September, the news does not signal a seismic shift in its operation. Rather, the carrier is continuing to do what it does well—run a lean, low-cost operation.

EasyJet vetted proposals from Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier, but Airbus's final price seemed to clinch the deal.

The airline's young fleet will grow in the next five years to 280 from 215, as it starts taking the 35 current-generation jets—all of which will be delivered from 2015-17. Airbus will deliver 100 A320neos from 2017-22.

“We are still evaluating engines for the neos and expect to make a decision early next year, but we are focusing more on the evaluation process than on the deadline,” says Gary Smith, head of powerplant and fleet transition.

EasyJet recently held a supplier conference to educate vendors about its fleet changes—and to encourage them to move beyond traditional maintenance approaches.

“We fly 1,200-1,400 sectors per day,” so efficiency gains with those kinds of numbers multiply savings, Smith says.

This isn't just a cost-cutting exercise; like EasyJet's decade-old relationship with SR Technics, Smith sees the steady volume of predictable maintenance work he brings as an opportunity for MROs to improve their processes and efficiencies simultaneously. Both sides benefit.

Waiting for the more efficient neos, however, will drive the fleet from its average age of five years today to about eight years in 2018, when it will plateau, says Smith. The oldest aircraft shift from 8-10 years to in excess of 12, which means more costly heavy maintenance checks will be required in the next five years than previously planned until the neos arrive.

To put this in context, EasyJet's maintenance costs represented 6% of its 2012 expenditures, compared to an industry average of 15-20%, according to TeamSAI figures.

Part of its efficiencies stem from the airline's engineering team making a big leap in 2010, when it finished a two-year project of bringing its management processes in-house. At the same time, it implemented Swiss Aviation Software's AMOS maintenance system. Having maintenance and ops control centers side by side at its Luton Airport headquarters near London enables the airline to improve on-time performance—one of its bedrocks. “We operate a complex jigsaw puzzle,” but try to make it as simple as possible by having standardized processes across its maintenance bases and line stations, says Smith.

EasyJet cites four goals: build No. 1 and No. 2 network positions in its markets; maintain cost advantages; drive demand, conversion and yields; and maintain capital discipline.

“You need a big radar,” to map the future, Smith adds.

Tap the icon in the digital edition of AW&ST to see Gary Smith, EasyJet's head of powerplant and fleet transition, discuss the airline's anticipated MRO needs over the next decade, or go to AviationWeek.com/video