Max Kingsley-Jones / London

Airline examines additions to Airbus single-aisle fleet as it prepares to receive its first A318 as launch customer

US low-fare carrier Frontier Airlines is studying a move to the larger Airbus A320 for trunk routes from its Denver, Colorado, hub, as it bolsters its A319 fleet with the delivery of its first A318.

The airline is midway through its transition to an all-Airbus fleet, and operates 17 132-seat A319s alongside 16 136-seat Boeing 737-300s. Its two remaining 108-seat 737-200s are being phased out next month when it receives the first of five 114-seat A318s on order. "We expect to become an all-Airbus operator during the 2005 financial year," says Frontier's chief financial officer Paul Tate.

Frontier has 10 more A319s on order, and Tate says that although the A318s will replace the 737-200s on lower-demand routes and long sectors that were beyond the 737-200's capability, it is evaluating a move beyond 130 seats for denser markets. "We are looking at all three models - the A318, A319 and A320 - and would hope to eventually have the A320 in the fleet," he adds. Tate says the airline has done some internal analysis on the A320 and has held informal talks with Airbus about the larger model.

Tate says that in Frontier's configuration, the A320 would seat 156 passengers - 24 more than the A319s - and "sooner or later we are going to need more capacity in denser markets, like Los Angeles". Although the airline has "a few" A319 options, he says market conditions make options irrelevant because there is so much short-term availability at competitive prices. "We are considering various acquisition methods - including ordering or leasing new aircraft or possibly secondhand acquisitions," he adds.

The airline is launch operator for the A318 and plans to put the first aircraft into service towards the end of next month, following US Federal Aviation Administration certification. Initial destinations will be Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nebraska and Omaha.

Source: Flight International