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JetBlue switches A321neos as Pratt troubles persist

JetBlue Airways has switched its first three Airbus A321neos to the A321ceos, in what it calls a "prudent" move as issues continue to be reported with the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engines that will power the airline's aircraft.

The New York-based carrier will now take 11 A321ceos next year, instead of three A321neos and eight A321ceos as originally planned.

JetBlue chief financial officer Steve Priest says: "We just felt that swapping the neos for the ceos between 2018 and 2019 is just prudent, [it's] good contingency planning for us."

He does not elaborate further on the engine issues, but calls P&W a "great partner" of the airline. "Pratt is confident of resolving the issues," says Priest.

A spokesperson for P&W does not specifically comment on JetBlue, but says the engine manufacturer is on track to produce 350 to 400 geared turbofan engines this year. "We continue to work with our airline customers in support of their operation," she adds.

JetBlue has 60 A321neos and 25 A320neos on order, shows Flight Fleets Analyzer. The carrier has chosen the P&W engine for a majority of the orders, but has not announced an engine choice for 15 of the 60 A321neos.

With the conversion of its first A321neos to A321ceos, JetBlue will now take delivery of its first A321neo in 2019 where it will add 13 of the type. In 2020, it will take delivery of six A320neos and seven A321neos.

Separately, JetBlue says it will defer the delivery of 13 Airbus aircraft in the coming years. It has deferred eight aircraft from 2019 to 2023, and another five from 2020 to 2024. Analysis of JetBlue's updated fleet plan shows that the airline has deferred three A321ceos and five A321neos in 2019, and deferred five A321neos in 2020.

The changes are the initial moves of a fleet review JetBlue is conducting, a process that will address the future of the airline's Embraer 190 fleet.

Priest adds that the Airbus conversion and deferrals will benefit capital expenditures. "It's a capital good guy," he says. "When we saw the opportunity to defer 13 additional aircraft… that activity has helped the capital allocation process."

The changes to JetBlue's Airbus orderbook do not affect a standing option of switching 15 A321neos to the A321LR, says Priest. The carrier has until end-2017 to decide on the potential conversion. The A321LR, to be offered by Airbus from 2019, will allow the airline to launch flights across the Atlantic to Europe.

Story updated with P&W statement

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