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JetBlue sees delays to A321neos, pushes out A220 deliveries

JetBlue Airways expects delays to the delivery of up to seven Airbus A321neos this year, and says it has postponed deliveries of its first A220-300s to allow more time for the airline to choose suppliers of the aircraft's interiors.

The New York-based airline now expects to take six A321neos "minimum" in 2019, down from 13 deliveries previously, says chief financial officer Steve Priest in an earnings call today. "We've been officially notified by Airbus of widely-known delays in neo deliveries," says Priest.

JetBlue continues to expect that its first A321neo will enter service in mid-year, an airline spokesperson tells FlightGlobal. The airline has orders for 85 A321neos.

In 2020, JetBlue will receive only one A220-300, instead of the five it initially planned for. Priest says two of the four postponed deliveries will shift to 2021, and the other two to 2025. An updated fleet plan shows the airline will take delivery of six A220-300s in 2021, up from four previously.

"We slightly delayed the delivery schedule to ensure we have selected the best business partners for the aircraft interiors from an economic and customer experience standpoint," says JetBlue's spokesperson. He adds that the airline will take delivery of its first A220-300 – and the sole A220 in that year – in the second half of 2020.

The airline holds orders for 60 A220-300s.

In October 2018, Airbus said customisation complexity on the A321neo and a shift to higher levels of automation have created production challenges. An Airbus spokesperson tells FlightGlobal that the manufacturer is "working hard to exceed" the minimum of six A321neos expected by JetBlue this year. "We contine working proactively with customers (such as JetBlue) for their planning," he adds.

It is not immediately clear how many A321neos JetBlue will now take delivery of in 2020. A previous fleet plan had stated that the airline will accept 15 A321neos in 2020, prior to the delays announced today.

Priest says the orderbook changes have no impact on the airline's capacity plans for 2019 and 2020, or its cost guidance. The carrier expects first quarter capacity to grow 7.5% to 9.5%, and full-year capacity to rise 5-7%.

JetBlue has guided to a 1.5% to 3.5% increase in unit cost excluding fuel for the first quarter. The metric is forecasted to remain flat or grow by up to 2% for the full year.

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