EasyJet puts ex-GB Airways A321s up for sale

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UK budget carrier EasyJet has invited offers for seven ex-GB Airways Airbus A321s as it seeks to simplify its fleet and control its growth rate.  

London Luton-headquartered EasyJet acquired former British Airways franchise carrier GB Airways in January, widening the scope of its fleet to include A320s and A321s. The carrier’s fleet currently comprises 30 Boeing 737-700s, 112 A319s, nine A320s and five A321s.

In May EasyJet said it was planning to accelerate both the phase-out of its remaining Boeing 737s and the rationalisation of its expensive GB Airways sub-fleet. The budget carrier expects these moves to cut €40 million ($62 million) from its cost base by September 2011.

Speaking to ATI during a media briefing in Luton, EasyJet head of investor relations Rachel Kentleton said a request for proposals covering the sale of its seven owned A321s has been issued and the results will soon be known. “Either way, by Farnborough [air show] we will know what we are doing,” she says.

GB Airways former fleet is configured differently to EasyJet’s own aircraft, which have a wider aisle for quick turnarounds and are equipped with an alternative engine selection. Kentleton says the disposal forms part of EasyJet’s tactical growth rate reduction going into next winter.

EasyJet strategic planning manager Hal Calamvokis says five of the A321s are in service and the remaining two are on order. He adds that the undelivered aircraft will most likely join EasyJet’s fleet for a few months before being transferred to new owners.

A third undelivered A321, scheduled to arrive in 2009, has been excluded from the initial package, says Calamvokis. He adds that GB Airways’ leased A320s are also going. Four are slated to leave EasyJet’s fleet next spring, followed by a further five in spring 2010.

Despite the aircraft disposals, EasyJet is still considering converting some of its A319 orders to the larger A320, although timings and numbers are yet to be fixed.

An EasyJet spokesman says: “The decision has been taken in principle, because having the GB Airways fleet has shown that it’s useful to have a second gauge.”

EasyJet’s A319s are equipped to perform high frequency services, rather than longer range missions, meaning that GB Airways’ longer routes would fall outside of their operational range.

The budget carrier will decide this winter whether to continue with these destinations, which include Sharm el-Sheikh, north Africa and the Canary Islands. EasyJet will need either its own or the former GB Airways A320s to operate the services.

Calamvokis says: “GB Airways has allowed us to experiment on that kind of route and we will make a decision on route performance in light of the current climate.”