Latin American airline group Avianca plans to place an order for "hundreds" of new narrowbodies, and is studying the Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A320neo families.

The airline wants to use the aircraft for both growth and replacement, Avianca chief executive Fabio Villegas told Flightglobal today at the ALTA Airline Leaders Forum in Nassau.

Asked how many aircraft Avianca plans to order, he says: "It will be a significant number, in the hundreds." Avianca operates 94 A320-family aircraft, its website indicates.

Villegas says Avianca will require aircraft deliveries from 2019 onwards, and is eyeing jets with 120 to 180 seats. He declines to specify when the airline will make a final decision on the order.

Even though Avianca is not currently a 737 operator, Villegas says that does not rule out the Boeing narrowbody.

"Both airplanes can fulfil our mission," says Villegas, adding that Avianca's decision will boil down to the economics and pricing offered by the airframers.

Van Rex Gallard, Boeing's vice-president of sales for Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean, is confident that the 737 Max has better economics and would be a better fit for Avianca, he told Flightglobal earlier this month.

"It's not a done deal – we’re in the middle of the conversations. But I'm bullish enough to be able to talk to you about the fact that we have a good chance there," Gallard said then.

Avianca has no plans to acquire smaller narrowbodies like the Bombardier CSeries or the re-engined Embraer E2, which were being considered by sister carrier Avianca Brazil.

"We already have the ATRs, and the A318s to meet our 100-seat aircraft needs," says Villegas.

In 2012, Avianca placed an order for 51 A320-family aircraft, comprising 33 A320neos and 18 current-generation A320s.

Source: Cirium Dashboard