Vueling set for end of summer fleet decision

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Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling expects to finalise its fleet renewal decision by the end of the summer.

The Barcelona-based carrier is in the middle of a fleet tender aimed at renewing its current fleet of 59 Airbus narrowbodies. "We are now in the final stages," explained Vueling chief executive Alex Cruz, speaking to journalists after addressing the Aviation Club in London today. He says he expects the final decision around September or October.

Alongside Airbus and Boeing narrowbodies - both current and new engine generations - the carrier has also been looking at Bombardier's CSeries. "They are in the game," says Cruz.

He stresses the order will be smaller than the major 200 aircraft sized commitments seen over the last year from some other low-cost operators, such as Norwegian or Lion Air. But alongside replacing its existing fleet, the Vueling order will have provision for future growth.

"We are taking our time. We need a clear visibility on lowering our ownership costs," Cruz explains. While Cruz points to Vueling's strong cost-focus as delivering the second lowest cost base in Europe, he sees aircraft ownership - Vueling's average aircraft age is nine years - as a big opportunity. "One objective is to have a substantial reduction in fleet ownership costs," he told Flightglobal Pro earlier this year. "It's the one area we don't compare well with our peers, but we still have a potential advantage because we can do something about it."

Vueling currently operates an all-leased fleet, but will look to purchase at least some of the new aircraft. "Its unlikely we will change to a large percentage of owned aircraft," he says, noting that the precise mix will be dictated by the available financing. "We can see some benefits to having some aircraft owned ourselves," he adds. "Vueling has zero debt, but we recognise as we grow and get advantages of some scale there may be some finance-related advantages to having some aircraft owned."