JetBlue Airways is examining options to reduce its Embraer E-190 orderbook by 25 aircraft to support its recent conclusion that the optimal number of 100-seat aircraft in its fleet is 75.

The carrier was the E-190 launch customer in 2005 and by year-end will operate 49 of the type.

Speaking during an investor call today JetBlue CFO Ed Barnes explained the airline has an additional 46 E-190s on order for deliveries into 2018.

"Our model suggests we need to mitigate 25 [E-190s]," said Barnes, preferably in the 2012-2016 timeframe.

Barnes outlined a "range of possibilities" available to JetBlue to adjust its E-190 fleet including selling used aircraft and accepting new deliveries, selling delivery positions or opting out of remaining delivery positions altogether and paying a "reasonable negotiated fee to Embraer".

JetBlue has the flexibility in its existing Embraer order to switch to the larger-gauge E-195, and Barnes explained that could be useful in remarketing the delivery positions.

Joining Barnes was JetBlue chief commercial officer Robin Hayes, who explained the decision to a reach steady state of 75 E-190s was largely driven by JetBlue's network evolution than by the E-190's economics.

Hayes said the E-190 is "absolutely crucial" as JetBlue continues its expansion from Boston, particularly in relevant business markets. He also cited the E-190's attributes in aiding JetBlue to build its regional presence in San Juan, Puerto Rico as it launches new intra-Caribbean flights from its San Juan focus city.

But as JetBlue strengthens its leisure markets from its New York JFK base to Florida and the Caribbean, Hayes stated the Airbus A320 and A321 are the right gauge for those markets.

JetBlue has ordered 40 Airbus A320neos for delivery beginning in 2017 and continuing through 2021, and has opted to convert 30 of its 52 existing A320 orders to the A321 variant. Deliveries of the A321s begin in 2013.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news