Vueling sets sights on fleet renewal order decision in 2012

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Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling is set to issue a request for proposals to renew its fleet by the end of the year as it looks to take a further step in reducing its costs.

The airline, established out of the merger between Barcelona-based low-cost carriers Clickair and Vueling in 2009, currently operates a mix of 47 Airbus narrowbodies with an average age of around nine years.

Vueling chief executive Alex Cruz, speaking to ATI during the World Low Cost Airlines Congress in London, explained the airline was progressing efforts to renew its fleet.

"We will probably issue an RFP by the end of the year, aiming for an order by Easter," he said, noting it has already notified the manufacturers. The target would be to take aircraft, through a mix of purchase and sale/leaseback deals, from as early as 2013 and replace its existing aircraft as their leases expire.

Precise numbers and timings are still being evaluated, but Cruz said "it is unlikely to be a small order" and will also cater for future growth. "What we have not made a decision on is the number of growth aircraft we will need," he said, adding it will include a mix of firm aircraft and options.

The carrier will evaluate Bombardier's CSeries, as well as Airbus and Boeing, and Cruz noted a decision between the latter two's existing and new engine options would be an economic decision based on the value of the last-produced current generation of narrowbodies.

Cruz believes the order can provide the next step change to Vueling's cost base. "Fleet costs is one area where we can still improve our cost base. When we finalise the fleet procurement, our costs will go down further," he said.