JetBlue Airways will begin retrofitting its existing Airbus A320 fleet with sharklet wing tip devices by March, but will only retrofit five of them this year. It does not expect to complete the retrofit with the fuel-saving technology on all 127 of its current A320s until 2016 or 2017.

The New York-based, low-cost carrier said in 2011 that it would start retrofitting its entire fleet in 2013 but did not provide details about the pace (Aviation Daily, June 11, 2011). Even now, the carrier says its schedule is flexible.

“We have a lot of flexibility to make it fast or make it slow,” CFO Mark Powers said during the carrier’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call.

It will take about two weeks to retrofit each aircraft, he noted, so the carrier has to take into account the tradeoff between the revenue lost from taking the aircraft out of service and the efficiencies gained from lower fuel burn after the installation.

The airline will offer more specifics on the modification plan after taking a closer look at maintenance costs and hangar schedules, Powers added.

JetBlue expects fuel savings of as much as 3% from installing the sharklets, which also will be fitted on all new deliveries of A320 and A321 aircraft, seven of which are arriving this year. Powers reiterated the airline’s 2011 estimate that each retrofit will pay for itself in about two years.

Under the terms of the carrier’s deal with Airbus, however, JetBlue says it cannot disclose the purchase price or modification costs for the sharklets.

In other fleet news, JetBlue says it is accelerating the delivery of four of its Embraer 190 aircraft to this year “to take advantage of 100-seat opportunities in Boston and San Juan,” where the carrier has been substantially boosting its capacity as its competitors scale back.

The acceleration means JetBlue will receive seven of the Embraer jets this year instead of the previously scheduled three. The four additional E-190s coming this year had been scheduled for delivery in 2018.