Days after taking delivery of its first A321 aircraft, JetBlue Airways placed a new order for 15 A321ceo and 20 A321neo aircraft.
In addition, the airline has opted to up-size 8 A320ceo and 10 A320neo aircraft currently on backlog to 8 A321ceo and 10 A321neo, respectively. This order marks the 10,000th order for an Airbus A320 Family aircraft.
The airline is also going to retrofit Sharklets to its Airbus fleet. This order marks, with JetBlue as a partner, the launch of the Sharklet retrofit program. “We are pleased to convert some of our A320 positions to A321s, and order additional A321s to better match capacity with demand,” said JetBlue President and CEO Dave Barger.
Interestingly, JetBlue will be the first airline to take delivery of an aircraft from Airbus’ newest assembly facility, currently under construction in Mobile, Alabama.The up-sizing from the A320 to A321 is a significant move. In our view, this decision provides support for the ongoing need for a 757 replacement. The A321 seems to be winning more business competing with the 737-900 than it did against the 757. That says something.
JetBlue sends a signal about its intentions with this move. The airline advised us “Our fleet order is driven purely by our network plan; we need the A321 prior to the 2018 earliest delivery for the neo. The ceo still gives us a cost advantage – 190 seats in core configuration over 150 seats on the A320. Perfect for slot-controlled airports with long, dense markets (JFK originations).”
Once again we see that slot constraints drive airlines to up-size. JetBlue is going to work around its JFK constraints. In addition we can see how Airbus can keep selling the ceo even as the neo is coming along. Production slots are as tight as some airport slots.