Vueling to decide on aircraft order this year

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Spanish budget carrier Vueling, which has an all-leased fleet of Airbus A320s, will this year take a decision on whether to place its first aircraft order.

Vueling has 36 A320s on lease, with a further six due to arrive during the second quarter of 2011. It is also taking six aircraft on short-term lease from Iberia as part of an eight-month contract with its part-owner.

"Looking at our balance sheet, our size and our prospects, we probably need to think about buying aircraft," Vueling chief executive Alex Cruz tells ATI.

"We will have 48 aircraft, all leased, and I think that is as high as we should go. We are beginning to consider purchase options, which we have not considered in the past."

Cruz says downsizing Vueling's leased fleet and switching to owned aircraft would be achieved by not renewing leases as they expire.

"We have taken some steps," says Cruz. "The decision to buy or not, and how many aircraft, will be made this year. If we issue a tender, it will be this year."

If Vueling goes ahead with the tender, Cruz will be seeking A320-sized aircraft and he expects Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier to be in contention. The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China's (Comac) C919 may also be in the frame.