is slashing its backlog, rescheduling narrowbody deliveries and converting some orders to the larger A321 as it realigns growth plans through the next five years.
The revisions drop up to 25 E-190s from the carrier’s current order backlog with. And while JetBlue’s management has still to decide how it will implement this strategy, it is adamant aircraft will not be parked to meet a 75-aircraft E-Jet fleet optimization goal. JetBlue says it currently operates 46 owned and leased E-190s. Its A320 fleet numbers 119 aircraft.
Some 52 more A320s were scheduled for delivery through 2016, but with JetBlue’s restructured fleet plan, these deliveries will now include 30 A321s. Also, three deliveries planned for 2014 and five more in 2015 are being deferred to 2017.
Starting in 2013, pending certification, the airline’s narrowbodies also will be delivered line fitted with Airbus’ sharklets.
JetBlue, which is a launch customer for the wingtip technology, also intends to retrofit its entire Airbus fleet with these winglets starting in 2013. The program will be cost neutral in two years at current fuel prices, said CFO Ed Barnes during a June 21 conference call.
Barnes also noted that the revised fleet plan will generate cash flow while reducing capital expenditure and help focus on operations in New York, Boston, The Caribbean and Latin America, which are “exceeding expectations.”
This new fleet arrangement also reflects a shift in JetBlue’s network planning that has already seen the airline adapt to capacity cuts by mainline rivals in the Caribbean (wherehas effectively closed its hub in Puerto Rico) and Boston. These two markets will now be home to a majority of E-Jet operations, with the 100-seater used for thinner intra-Caribbean routes or high frequency business markets from Boston.
Options allowing JetBlue to change E-190s orders to Embraer 195s gives the airline even more growth potential in these two markets, noted Barnes.
JetBlue’s decision to add the A321 to its fleet mix also marks a returned commitment to transcontinental flights, particularly routes between New York and California that have been hampered by the A320’s performance. The new type, with sharklets, not only gives better range, but with 185-190 seats it also provides a lower per-seat cost than the 150-seat A320s.
The A321 also grants JetBlue greater flexibility on high-capacity routes, particularly those between New York’s slot constrained airports and Florida’s leisure destinations, noted management during the conference call. They also confirmed that the A321’s improved range could open markets in Latin America not currently available with JetBlue’s current fleet.
But the A320 still remains in JetBlue’s fleet plan, and 12 more will be added through to 2013 before the deliveries shift exclusively to A321s for 2014 and 2015. Two more A320s are scheduled for delivery in 2016 and eight more the following year, although with upwards of 17 A320s potentially coming off lease between 2013 and 2018 JetBlue will probably stabilize the size of its A320 fleet rather than use the deliveries for growth.
JetBlue’s A320 fleet will likely be reduced further with the introduction of 40 Airbus A320NEO (new engine option) aircraft from a memorandum of understanding unveiled at the Paris air show. These aircraft, said Barnes, will be used for growth as well as replacing older aircraft when they are delivered between 2017 and 2021.