Airlines at the ISTAT Europe conference in Prague have identified fleet flexibility as a means of combating possible fuel-price increases.

Traditionally, carriers have put fuel-hedging programmes in place to protect themselves, but Allegiant Air's vice-president of fleet and corporate finance Tom Doxey points to fleet flexibility as an important metric.

Allegiant operates 52 Boeing MD-80s as well as 18 Airbus A320-family jets, and has commitments to a further 32 Airbus narrowbodies.

Doxey says airlines need to ensure enough fleet flexibility to "adapt" to different oil prices.

He adds that aircraft models are just one factor in fleet flexibility: lease returns and aircraft component management are also crucial.

TUI Group director of fleet management and finance Tom Chandler likewise sees fleet flexibility as key.

Almost half of voting delegates at ISTAT Europe predicted that fuel prices would be in the $60-80 per-barrel range by 2019.

Another quarter of delegates expect fuel prices to be above $80 a barrel in four years' time, and 24% foresee prices between $40 and $60.

The remaining 2% expect fuel prices to be below $40 by 2019.

Session moderator Damon D'Agostino, CIT Aerospace's commercial chief, said the lessor recently polled its customer base of 110 operators and found 80% of respondents in agreement that fuel prices would be between $60 and $80 a barrel.

By 2018, fuel prices will be up 25% on today's price, predicted half the voting ISTAT audience. But another 35% believe fuel prices will be at this year's levels, and a further 11% of delegates expect fuel prices at significantly higher levels, while 9% foresee lower fuel prices in 2018.

Source: Cirium Dashboard