Avianca's intention to order 100 Airbus A320neo family aircraft is the airline's most significant in recent years since closing the merger that formed the Colombia-based airline group in 2010.

Avianca expects deliveries of the aircraft from 2019 onwards, an airline spokesperson tells Flightglobal. The airline plans to use the A320neo family aircraft to renew its narrowbody fleet, she adds.

The 5 February announcement of a memorandum of understanding signed between Avianca and Airbus for the 100-aircraft order was expected. Avianca's chief executive Fabio Villegas told Flightglobal in November 2014 that the airline was planning an order for a "significant number" of aircraft, adding that Avianca was studying the A320neo and Boeing 737 Max families.

In a statement, Villegas says: “After a thorough technical evaluation, we selected the A320neo family for its excellent fuel efficiency, reliability and comfort. These qualities are essential to further our growth and fleet modernisation strategy and improve our passenger experience.”

Both Boeing and Airbus had expressed bullishness about winning the Avianca narrowbody campaign. Boeing's confidence was notable, given that Avianca's fleet is dominated by Airbus and Avianca already operates the A320 family. In addition, the airline also had an order for the A320neo family, which it first announced in 2011 at the Paris air show. That order for 51 A320 family aircraft includes 33 A320neo family aircraft. Deliveries of the A320neos from this order were scheduled for 2017 to 2019.

Avianca's airlines operate 112 A320 family aircraft currently, Flightglobal's Ascend Fleets database shows. These are spread across several airlines in the group: Colombia-based Avianca, Avianca Costa Rica, Avianca Ecuador, Taca International and Taca Peru. The aircraft have build dates ranging from 2001 to 2014.

Avianca fleet table

The A320 family is the backbone of Avianca's combined fleet, which totals more than 160 aircraft. This number excludes the fleet of Avianca Brazil, which is managed separately outside of the Avianca group of airlines, despite sharing the same brand.

In recent years, Avianca has streamlined its fleet to mostly six families of aircraft, compared to as many as 11 families in 2009. Avianca had made fleet streamlining a priority after the merger between Colombia-based Avianca and El Salvador-based Taca closed in 2010, in order to simplify operations and cut costs.

Besides the A320 family, the airline group operates the Airbus A330, Boeing 787, Embraer 190, ATR 42/72 and Cessna Caravan, as well as a solo Boeing 767 freighter.

Back in 2009, Avianca's airlines had operated other types including the Boeing 737, Boeing 757, Boeing MD-83, and the Fokker 50/100. Avianca Ecuador, formerly known as AeroGal, had operated 737s before Avianca replaced them with the A320 family.

Boeing had in November expressed hopes that it could convert Avianca to the 737, despite the dominance of rival Airbus at the Latin American carrier. "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," said Boeing's vice-president of sales for Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean Van Rex Gallard at the time.

Asked to comment on Avianca's selection of the A320neo, a Boeing spokesperson says the airframer is "disappointed" that the airline did not go with the 737 Max. "We believe it is the right airplane for their single-aisle requirements," he adds. "Avianca remains an important customer for Boeing and we will continue to work hard to meet their future fleet needs."

Source: Cirium Dashboard