EasyJet's Stelios reserves judgement on fleet expansion

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EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou is reserving judgement on the decision by the carrier to acquire another 15 Airbus aircraft.

Haji-Ioannou was involved last year in a highly-public rift with EasyJet's former management over the rate at which the carrier was expanding its fleet.

The dispute led to his resignation from the board as he sought to block the growth plans.

While EasyJet had intended to limit the fleet to 207 aircraft by the end of fiscal 2011-12, it stated last year that this figure would increase to 214.

The latest fleet plan shows that EasyJet will have 213 aircraft by this point, rising to 220 by the end of its 2012-13 financial year.

Haji-Ioannou, who licences the EasyJet brand, says that the decision to acquire new aircraft "sounds like good news at least in the short term", pointing out that any decision which increases the airline's turnover will lead to higher royalties.

But he adds: "We shall see if these 15 incremental aircraft will find deployment on profitable new routes and earn the appropriate return on capital employed.

"I am still hoping to get greater transparency on which routes these and any other new aircraft are to be deployed."

Haji-Ioannou says he is "not focused on seat capacity numbers but on earnings per share", adding that the new management team "should deliver" on analysts' forecasts of reaching post-tax profits of over £250 million ($387 million) in 2013.