EasyJet may buy bigger planes to cut costs and increase capacity

Low-cost airline’s CEO says recent terrorist attacks have not had impact on bookings

EasyJet could look at buying more Airbus A321neo aircraft instead of smaller A320neos, the UK carrier's chief executive said on Wednesday, as it tries to reduce costs and increase capacity on busy European routes.

EasyJet announced last month that it had arranged to convert part of an Airbus order to larger planes to cut costs per seat, and was also postponing some orders of smaller planes as it reported a bigger-than-expected half-year loss.

The low-cost airline took delivery of its first A320neo jet on Wednesday, its 300th plane, with new, more fuel-efficient engines.

“A 15 per cent reduction in fuel burn is relevant at any fuel price,” CEO Carolyn McCall said in Toulouse as the A320neo was delivered.

‘On our radar’

“We are able to take more A321neos in our framework but we haven’t as yet committed to taking any more . . . It will be on our radar as we go through the next 12-18 months.”

EasyJet has already switched 30 of its 130 A320neo orders for larger A321neos, which seat an additional 49 passengers and are set to bring the cost per seat down by 8-9 per cent compared with the smaller plane.

McCall said EasyJet had had a good third quarter and that the environment was improving, with rivals not growing as fast as previously.

New slots

EasyJet is likely to use the larger planes to fly out of airports such as London Gatwick, Paris Orly and Amsterdam where it is hard to get new slots.

McCall told journalists she had not seen any impact on bookings from recent attacks in London and Manchester, and the uncertainty created by last week’s UK general election did not alter its own plans.

The carrier has applied for an operating licence in an EU member state to allow it to keep flying intra-EU routes once Britain leaves the bloc, and it hopes the application will be approved this summer.