Airbus had surged ahead of Boeing and Bombardier in the "last mile" of Mexican low-cost carrier VivaAerobus' consideration of a substantial narrowbody order to renew its fleet.

The Monterrey-based airline in October 2013 gave Airbus its biggest ever aircraft order made by a single Latin American airline, with a firm purchase of 40 Airbus A320neos and 12 current generation A320s. The deal also covers options for an additional 40 A320neos.

VivaAerobus' decision to become an all-Airbus operator, shedding its all-Boeing 737 fleet, was made after a year of negotiations with the three airframers. The airline, besides considering the 737 Max, also studied the Bombardier CSeries, says VivaAerobus chief executive Juan Carlos Zuazua.

In particular, VivaAerobus had evaluated the CS300 in a 160-seat configuration, he tells Flightglobal. "It is a fantastic aircraft, and there is no doubt it will be a success."

"It was a very close race. In the last mile, Airbus came ahead of everybody," he says. "Airbus was the manufacturer who was able to give us the best all-inclusive proposal that would deliver on our objectives."

Zuazua says the airframer's proposal offered the best maintenance and ownerships costs for VivaAerobus. Airbus also offered to provide support to help the carrier transition from the 737 to A320, he adds.

VivaAerobus will begin phasing out some of its 19 737-300s this year, with four or five aircraft leaving the fleet. Before delivery of the A320s begin in the second quarter of 2015, the airline will lease A320s to replace the outgoing 737s. The carrier expects to start flying its first A320 in April, says Zuazua.

By mid-2016, the airline will operate an all-A320 fleet, he adds.

Source: Cirium Dashboard