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Jetlines changes course with order for two used A320s

Three weeks after hiring a new chief executive, Canadian ultra-low-cost start up Jetlines has leased two used Airbus A320s, shelving a plan to start operations using Boeing 737s.

The Vancouver-based company, which for years has worked to get off the ground with Boeing aircraft, signed a deal on 12 June to lease the A320s from Dublin-based aircraft lessor AerCap.

Jetlines expects to receive both aircraft in the first half of 2019, the company says in a media release. The aircraft are 12 years old.

"We are now positioned to carry out the remainder of work to complete our licencing process and... we are continuing to advance our financing initiatives, personnel recruitment and airport agreements," Jetlines' executive chair Mark Morabito says in the release.

Despite the Airbus deal, Jetlines has not cancelled an existing 737 Max order it has on the books with Boeing.

"The pre-existing purchase agreement with Boeing for the 737 Max for delivery in 2023 remains in place," Jetlines' release says. "Jetlines plans to use the Airbus planes to support its start-up operations and is not limited from securing a Boeing fleet in future, should the company decide to do so."

The Airbus deal follows Jetlines' 22 May announcement that it hired Allegiant Air senior vice-president of commercial Lukas Johnson as its chief executive.

Lukas will take Jetlines' reins from outgoing chief Stan Gadek on 18 June.

"Through my experience with Airbus, I believe that these planes are the right aircraft to commence operations," Johnson says in the release. "The majority of ultra low-cost carriers worldwide operate with the Airbus A320."

A320s are "fuel efficient" and allow "high-density seat configuration", he adds.

Johnson worked at Las Vegas-based Allegiant since 2010, during which it shifted to Airbus A320s from MD-80 family aircraft.

Jetlines pitched itself as a Boeing operator for years as it sought funding to begin ultra-low-cost flights. It planned to begin flying with 737-300s and then to acquire 737-700s or 737-800s.

Then in December 2014 Jetlines signed an agreement to purchase five 737 Max 7s, with deliveries scheduled, at that time, to begin in 2021.

The purchase agreement gave Jetlines options to buy another 16 737 Max, but the entire deal was contingent on Jetlines completing an initial public offering of stock.

Jetlines completed the IPO in March 2017, but little was said of the Boeing order and the airline has since continued to push back its timeline for launching operations.

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