MIAMI — JetBlue announced on Tuesday a plan to restructure their fleet, placing an emphasis on larger aircraft and fuel savings.
Despite only receiving their first Airbus A321 last week the airline has already decided to place an incremental order for 35 new A321 aircraft. The order will be split between 15 A321ceo (current engine option) and 20 A321neo (new engine option) aircraft. The airline expects to have 15 of the ceo version in the fleet by 2017. A321neo’s are expected to begin entering the fleet in 2018.
Doubling down on the A321, JetBlue also announced plans to convert 18 existing orders for Airbus A320 to A321s. The carrier did not say which version (ceo/neo) they would be.
Existing members of the Airbus A320 fleet will begin receiving the sharklet retrofit in 2015. Up to 110 of the aircraft will receive the modification.
The plan will also defer delivery of 24 Embraer 190 mid-sized aircraft until 2020. Previously the carrier was due to receive the first of the airplanes next year. CEO Dave Barger noted in a press release that the aircraft is becoming too small to effectively serve many routes, particularly out of Fort Lauderdale.
The carrier was the launch customer for the E190 back in 2004. The airplanes have since gone on to become a mainstay of the JetBlue fleet, performing well on short regional routes. Going forward it looks like the E190s will wind up being centered in uncontested hubs like Boston and San Juan, PR.
The last major fleet shake-up for populist airline came in June of 2011, when JetBlue announced a similar mix of deferrals, orders, and conversions. Of particular note was the conversion of 30 A320 aircraft to the A321, the first of which was delivered last week.
That same newly delivered airplane made waves as the first airplane to roll out the companies newest product push: Mint. The premium service, which is only available on select Airbus A321s flying the ultra-competitive New York – Los Angeles route, was unveiled earlier this month in New York. It has caught flak for bucking the carriers heretofore populist image, though the carrier insists the premium addition will not change its primary commitment to its all-coach image.
Looking wider, the move to upgrade A320s to the larger A321 and defer delivery of the smaller E190 also signifies the growing trend toward fleet upgauging. While Airbus functionally comes out of this a wash (technically still a big winner, this was the A320 family’s 10,000th order), Bombardier cannot be too thrilled with the deferral. Delta has recently taken a similar course of action as it have moved to dump smaller CRJ-200 equipment in favor of larger Boeing 717s and CRJ-900s.