EasyJet's plan to launch a tender towards the end of this year for new Airbus, Boeing or Bombardier narrowbodies is dependent on the completion of a detailed appraisal of the current fleet.
The Luton-based low-cost airline operates all-Airbus fleet of 204 A319s and A320s, with orders, options and purchase rights for around 100 more. Regarding the airline's long-term fleet development plan, chief executive Carolyn McCall tells Flightglobal's Airline Business magazine that EasyJet's requirements are still far from clear.
"If I could answer that I'd solve an awful lot of problems overnight," she says.
McCall says that EasyJet has been "talking to all" of the airframers - including the Chinese and the Russians - about its future fleet requirements but is focused on the offerings from Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier. "We'll keep a dialogue with the Chinese, but we see that probably as much longer term. That's not for this phase."
She says that the airline needs to "think about the new generation [airliners] and timing", undertake a technical and economic validation of these, and then work backwards.
"We need a transition plan to get us there. We're doing a very rigorous review of fleet going forward," she says. "We start by asking whether we're optimising our existing assets before saying we need new aircraft, and where does that leave us between now and 2017 which is really when the first of the new generation [aircraft] are available."
EasyJet still has 42 outstanding options and 31 purchase rights with price protection for Airbus single-aisles, although McCall says that EasyJet does not necessarily have to exercise any of these commitments.
"This is a position that may not remain the same, because we will be talking to Airbus all the time about those options," she says.
The fleet review and the technical and economic evaluations are to continue throughout the current calendar year, says McCall, during which time the airline must also establish business and investment cases for any aircraft acquisitions.
Once these exercises are completed, EasyJet will run a tender process with the airframers and engine suppliers. "There's quite a long way to go," she adds.