JetBlue orders larger Airbuses as it defers Embraers

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JetBlue Airways is to order another 35 Airbus jets but defer delivery of 24 Embraer 190s under a fleet restructuring plan which shifts the balance of the fleet towards larger aircraft types.

The restructuring will also involve converting 18 of its A320 and A320neo orders to larger A321 and A321neo twinjets.

"We believe these fleet changes will provide increased ability to match capacity and demand throughout our network and reduce costs, leading to improved shareholder returns over the long term," says JetBlue chief Dave Barger.

JetBlue has 30 A321s and 11 A320s on order. It is converting eight of the A320s to A321s, and placing orders for 15 more A321s, bringing its total to 53 of the larger type.

It is also amending its order for 40 A320neos, converting 10 of them to A321neos and ordering another 20 A321neos on top.

JetBlue has 25 Embraer 190s on order but 24 of them, scheduled for delivery from 2014, will be deferred to 2020-22. The airline says this will "optimise" its fleet of the type to about 60 in the near term.

"While the [Embraer 190] is critical to our continued success in Boston and San Juan, we are now at the point where our network growth calls for larger gauge aircraft," adds Barger.

Deliveries of the additional A321neo aircraft will begin in 2018. The 15 additional A321s will be introduced by 2017.

"With significant savings from increased fuel efficiency and better utilisation of our airport slot portfolio in key markets, we believe these A321 aircraft will improve our company's profitability," says Barger.

JetBlue chief financial officer Mark Powers says the change will reduce capital commitments over the next three years, a move "consistent with our free cash flow and return on invested capital goals".