Allegiant begins retirement of seven MD-80s

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Low-cost carrier Allegiant Air has started the retirement of seven Boeing MD-80s from its fleet.

The Las Vegas-based carrier's chief executive Maury Gallagher said during the carrier's earnings call on 30 January that the airline will have no planned retirements of the type in the near term after the seven aircraft leave.

Calling the MD-80 a "sold performer", he said: "It will be a key part of our fleet in the foreseeable future."

The seven aircraft to be retired comprise two MD-87s, two MD-82s and three MD-83s, says Allegiant in response to queries.

Of the two MD-87s, one was retired in end-2012 and the second aircraft will be retired this year. Of the three MD-83s, one will likely be retired in the first quarter of 2014 after it completes charter flying, says Allegiant.

This means that Allegiant will retire five MD-80s in 2013. According to the airline's fleet plan, one will leave in the second quarter and the other four will be retired in the third quarter. The aircraft that are being retired do not match the seat configuration on the rest of Allegiant's fleet, says a spokesperson at the carrier.

The airline is nearing completion of a seat reconfiguration project on 51 MD-80s, which involves adding 16 seats to each aircraft for a total of 166 seats on board. Allegiant said during its earnings call on 30 January that 47 of the 51 aircraft have been reconfigured. The remaining four aircraft will be reconfigured in the first quarter, according to Allegiant's fleet plan.

The airline had said previously it aims to retire its MD-80 fleet in a decade. Allegiant also operates six Boeing 757s and will add Airbus A320 family aircraft to its fleet in 2013.

According to the carrier's 2013 fleet plan, it will place two A319s into service in the second quarter. In the third quarter, it will add two A320s and in the fourth quarter, another five A320s.

Gallagher said another two A320s will join the fleet in 2014.

The nine A320s are being purchased with cash from Iberia. The airline will look at alternative financing for the aircraft going forward, said Gallagher. Allegiant's nine A319s are from a lease agreement with GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS). The A319s were formerly operated by EasyJet.

The carrier announced in December 2012 that it had cancelled a deal to lease 10 A319s from Cebu Pacific, saying that the deal failed to meet certain economic conditions.