Improving single-aisle capability key to low-cost carrier growth

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Continuous improvement in single-aisle airliner capability has been central to the development of low-cost airlines, according to Oliver Wyman consultant Blair Pomeroy.

He expects that the availability of a re-engined Airbus A320neo - and any counter-offer from Boeing - will provide further opportunities for airlines to expand their scope of operations.

Speaking in Airline Business' interactive special on low-cost carriers, Pomeroy said that airlines have used the increased range offered by the latest A320 family and Next Generation 737 aircraft to fly US and Australian transcontinental services and flights from western Europe deep into North Africa. "I think we'll see more of that as these planes continue [to be developed]," he said.

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Airbus chief operating officer customers John Leahy thinks that the 15% reduction in fuel burn offered by the A320neo with its advanced turbofans from CFM International or Pratt & Whitney will be a major attraction to low-cost airlines.

"If you look at what fuel is becoming as a percentage of the overall cash operating costs of the airline, a 15% reduction [in fuel burn] is like a 7.5% reduction in your cash operating costs. It really means you can drive the ticket price even further down," he said.

The two engine suppliers on the A320neo told Airline Business that the specific requirements of low-cost airlines are key drivers when designing their new engines.

"Their key requirement is all about the cost of ownershipand from an engine perspective, the first element of this is fuel burn," says CFM Leap-X programme manager Ron Klapproth.

"Low-cost carriers are really focused on moving passengers from one city to another, rather than operating and maintaining the equipment. So we have to look at our technology development to drive value so they can drive lower seat-mile costs," said P&W vice-president next generation product family Bob Saia. "These are things associated with improved fuel consumption, long time-on-wing between overhauls and really keeping the operation from flight to flight efficient."