While JetBlue Airways management is expecting a "fairly short" payback on its investment in a new Airbus A320 winglet retrofit programme, the carrier does not know which winglet solution will be installed on its A320 aircraft.

Executives said the carrier's investment in winglet retrofits for its fleet of Airbus A320s will have "a fairly short payback period".

Based on "today's fuel prices" the company estimated recouping the investment within a "two-year timeframe" during a conference call outlining the carrier's fleet moves announced on 21 June.

JetBlue later told Air Transport Intelligence it does "not have the final numbers" in terms of the fuel burn improvement for the retrofit programme, but the carrier is expecting "similar" improvements to the sharklets that will be installed on its new-build A320-family aircraft.

"All of our A320 and A321 deliveries beginning in 2013 will have sharklets, improving our fuel efficiency by roughly 3%", said Ed Barnes, JetBlue's CFO.

It was also revealed during the call that the retrofits are "expected to commence sometime in 2013" though there is uncertainty if Airbus has "certification for the final specs yet".

Beyond the start date for retrofits and some fuel efficiency estimates, details of the retrofit fit plan are vague. JetBlue could not provide "specific numbers" about the length of the project. The New York-based carrier is still awaiting "slightly more information from Airbus on exactly what the final solution is, and what the availability of the kits will be".

JetBlue has "been very active on retrofitting the A320 [with winglets], including providing test aircraft. We plan to do the same for even the sharklet to see if that's the right retrofit", said CEO Dave Barger.

Last year a JetBlue A320 completed a test with Aviation Partners winglets. Asked if Aviation Partners was involved in the project, JetBlue stated: "It is our understanding that they are still in discussions with Airbus".

While an exact solution has yet to be determined, according to JetBlue, the modification "will require some structural reinforcement in the wing root area".

The carrier also said that the wing tip device installed for the retrofit "will be very similar if not identical" to the sharklet modification that will be available on new-build Airbus aircraft.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news