Spirit Airlines is likely to use part of its 75 Airbus A320 family aircraft order to replace 28 aircraft in its current fleet that will be returned to lessors, but the airline says this plan is not cast in stone.

The carrier placed the order for 75 A320 narrowbodies, including 45 A320neos, in November 2011 and expects to take delivery of them from 2016 to 2021. It has indicated that part of the order will go towards replacing 28 aircraft that will come off their leases from 2016 to 2018. Of the 28 aircraft, 26 are A319s while the remaining two are A321s.

Spirit is likely to return the 28 aircraft. However, if the economic conditions are favourable at that time, there is an option of retaining the aircraft for longer, says the airline's chief executive Ben Baldanza. "That gives us the flexibility," he tells Flightglobal.

By that time, the aircraft will be about 12 years old each, says Baldanza. However, he notes that the airline aims to evolve to an all-A320 fleet, and points out that the A319 is 10% less cost efficient than the A320 with its lower number of seats. Spirit's A319s are configured with 145 seats each while its A320s have 178 seats each.

Spirit currently operates a fleet of 40 aircraft and expects to take delivery of four more by the end of the year. One aircraft will arrive in May, another in June, another in November and the final one in December, says Baldanza.

The carrier will add another seven aircraft to its fleet in 2013, another seven in 2014 and 10 in 2015. This will result in a 15% to 20% capacity growth year-on-year through 2015, he adds.

Spirit has not made an engine choice for its A320neo aircraft order, but Baldanza expects to announce a decision later this year.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news