EasyJet is to retender 95% of its maintenance and engineering spend by 2015 in a bid to gain "meaningful savings".
Chief executive Carolyn McCall notes "rising pressures on maintenance costs" as the UK low-cost carrier's fleet ages ahead of deliveries of Airbus A320neo narrowbodies. EasyJet has 100 Neos on order.
While only line maintenance deals will be tendered in 2014, the following year brings an exit point in EasyJet's contract with MRO provider SR Technics. It has not yet been decided how the business will be split up, but engine maintenance is likely to be contracted for a longer term than components maintenance.
Citing a recent benchmarking exercise, McCall says the airline has "some of the lowest engineering costs in the industry", but she adds: "We believe we can put more clear daylight between us and our competition."
EasyJet is "analysing all possible scenarios to work out how we keep our level of performance high while lowering our cost base", says McCall. "The initial work we've done has show some very positive options. And we are confident of gaining meaningful savings in this area. That is 8% of our ex-fuel cost base, so it's significant."
Maintenance costs were flat in the financial year ending 30 September, but the elimination of the previous year's one-off items was offset by increasing bills due to a rise in average aircraft age, from 4.4 years to 5.1, and a net 17 additional leased jets.
In its latest financial year, EasyJet's A319 fleet reduced from 160 to 153, while it added a net 10 A320s to bring the total to 64. Hence, its overall fleet grew from 214 to 217. The proportion of its fleet that is leased rose to a third, from just over a quarter a year ago.