Yesterday we reported fuel burn numbers which we called “preliminary”.  Today we got confirmation that Spirit Airlines refiled their numbers for 2017, so now we have final numbers.

For some time we have been eager to see how the A320neo family engines compare on fuel burn. Now we have a clear comparison, with the airlines having selected one engine type per fleet.  The formerly Virgin America fleet now operates under the Alaska Airlines brand.  Along with that fleet, the Frontier Airlines fleet is CFM LEAP powered.  The Hawaiian and Spirit fleet is P&W GTF powered.  We are certain the engine makers are pouring over the same data today.

What did we find?

The neo models do have better fuel burn than the ceo models: For 2018 the A320neo was 9.3% better than the A320, and the A321neo was 10.1% better than the A321.  Not near the ~15% expected.  The global data is possibly too messy to provide the kind of improvements everyone has been expecting.  So let’s break it down.

Looking at the two airlines with the optimal data for /neo comparison, Spirit and Frontier, we find the following.

  • The CFM powered A320neo at Frontier in 2018 were at $10 per seat hour in fuel costs compared to $11 per seat/hour to the GTF powered Spirit fleet.
  • For 2018, at Frontier, the LEAP engines had 16.7% better fuel burn/seat/hour than the CFM56.  For Spirit, the GTF engines were 15.4% better than the V2500.

Next, let’s look at the A321ceo/neo numbers.

This chart combines data for Virgin America and Alaska.  In 2018 the A321neo (CFM LEAP) showed a 29.4% improvement in fuel burn per seat over the A321ceo (CFM56).   To further illustrate the improvement in the A321neo, Hawaiian Airlines’ A321neo fleet (P&W GTF) generated a remarkable $10 per seat/hour in fuel burn for 2018.  This is due to Hawaiian using the A321neo in a more optimal fashion than any other with long stages which is ideal to demonstrate its capabilities.

To provide a guide of just how much fuel burn/seat/hour can vary, here is a table showing A321ceo numbers.

Stage lengths are a big driver, but then so is seat count.  Spirit has 228 seats compared to between 185 and 190 on Alaska.  We will continue to update our models as new data is published.  Subscribers can access the data model to run comparisons.

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