The Airbus A319neo seems to get a huge boost from US low-cost airline Spirit Airlines. The airline plans to order a yet unspecified number of the smallest neo-member as part of a Memorandum of Understanding for 100 A320neo-family aircraft announced on October 23.
The order will be a split of A319neo’s, A320neo’s, and A321neo’s and includes purchase rights for another 50. Deliveries are scheduled until 2027. The aircraft will be used for additional growth within Spirit’s domestic network, as well as to Latin America and the Caribbean. This might make the A321LR or A321XLR potentially interesting to the airline with the yellow aircraft.
Spirit has had an on and off relationship with the A320neo. It had 50 on order with Airbus and 5 with AerCap and was the first US-airline to take delivery of the type in October 2016. Early 2017 and some months of flying under their wings, the neo’s suffered a number of Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-issues (including in-flight shutdowns) that plagued the Geared Turbofan in its first two years of service. Spirit grounded a number of neo’s, deferred deliveries and even swapped neo’s for ceo’s to keep its strategy going.
Almost three years later, Spirit seems to have regained full confidence in the type to select 100+ neo’s with the latest spec GTFs that have proven better reliability. Airbus order book shows 43 A320neo’s on order and 15 in service. Spirit’s fleet plan shows 13 in service in Q3, with 7 to be delivered in Q4. In 2020, Spirit expects to take delivery of 48 A320neo’s.
Spirit operated 31 A319ceo’s and wants to replace them with A319neo’s. (Spirit Airlines)
While many airlines have up-sized their orders from A320neo’s to A321neo’s (especially to the new XLR), Spirit is planning to stick to the A319 as the smallest member of its fleet. It currently operates 31 A319ceo’s (7 owned, the rest leased) with a 145-seat configuration, more than the 110-140 two-class version Airbus offers as standard. The A319neo is advertised as a 120-150 seater, but Spirit could squeeze a few extra seats in there if it ‘does a ceo’.
Commonality with its bigger siblings must be the reason Spirit favors the A319neo over the A220-300 which by many is seen as the more-advanced aircraft but at 6.204 kilometers versus 6.850 km for the A319neo offers less range.
The A319neo had its biggest customer in Avianca Argentina with 20 on order, but Airbus deleted these from the book early this year as the airline hit trouble. There are now just 36 in the book, of which only one (an ACJ319neo) has been delivered. Other clients are Air Cote d’Ivoire (2), three unspecified for ACJ’s and more undisclosed customers for 30 aircraft.
Until the MoU is finalized, we will have to wait and see which engine Spirit will select for its neo-fleet. Is the confidence in the GTF really fully restored, or will the airline jump ship and select CFM’s LEAP?
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.