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IAG still finalising 737 Max's place in short-haul fleet plan

IAG has yet to clarify the mix of its future Boeing 737 Max fleet, as it continues discussions to firm up the tentative agreement for 200 of the type unveiled in June this year.

The company has set out a requirement to replace 225 short-haul aircraft beginning with 10 in 2022, ramping up to peak with 46 in 2024 and then falling away to the end of the decade.

IAG chief financial officer Steve Gunning, speaking at an 8 November briefing, said this modernisation profile amounted to a "worst-case scenario" because some 60 new aircraft over 2023-29 would be "early accelerated replacements".

"We don't need to replace them at that point," he says, but there is a "lot of argument" to replace them early, for unit cost and environmental reasons.

IAG has yet to determine the mix of 737 Max or Airbus A320neo-family jets in the replacement schedule.

The company has selected the Max 8 and Max 10 and indicated that it would initially place them with British Airways, at London Gatwick, and Spanish carrier Vueling, with a harmonised group specification.

Although deliveries have been requested for 2023-27, the timeframe for re-entry of the Max to airline service remains uncertain, and IAG has not reached a definitive agreement on the order or delivery schedule.

"We're still working on this," says Gunning.

But he defends the rationale for selecting the aircraft: "In a world where you have a duopoly, and you convert it into a monopoly because you don't deal with both [sides] on short-haul aircraft – that doesn't seem strategically to make sense."

He says IAG is interested not only in obtaining a good price for the jets but ensuring that the "supply is being competed" over both airframers.

Over the next three years IAG's short-haul fleet will remain the same size, just under 400 aircraft, as A319s and A320s are phased out and A320neos and A321neos are brought in.

British Airways has also outlined a replacement requirement, from 2020, for its Embraer regional jet fleet which primarily operates from London City airport.

Its BA CityFlyer operation has 24 aircraft – a mix of Embraer 190s and 170s – but the IAG fleet plan indicates a four-year modernisation programme beginning with six aircraft next year, with the overall Embraer fleet peaking at 30 aircraft in 2021.

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