Why Did easyJet Switch From Boeing To Airbus?

In today’s airline industry, it is common for low-cost carriers in particular to operate fleets consisting entirely of examples of a single aircraft family. This allows them greater operational flexibility while streamlining and lowering the costs of their maintenance operations. British low-cost carrier easyJet began as an all-Boeing 737 operator, before altering its fleet strategy in favor of the Airbus A320 family. But what caused the airline to make this switch?

easyJet Boeing 737
Until 2002, Boeing was easyJet’s preferred aircraft supplier with its 737. Photo: Dean Morley via Flickr

What prompted the switch?

October 2002 saw easyJet make headlines in the airline industry by switching its preferred aircraft supplier from Boeing to Airbus. It had previously been a loyal customer of the 737 family, having exclusively flown variants of the type since the mid-1990s.

However, as reported by The Telegraph, this relationship came to an end in the aforementioned month when easyJet placed an order for 120 Airbus A319s. It also had options for a further 120 aircraft. The airline’s Chair at the time, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, said that the reason for the switch was a substantial difference in price between Airbus and Boeing.

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easyJet received its first of the 120 A319s in February 2004. Photo: Getty Images

Specifically, thanks to a discount amounting to 50% or more, the A319s cost the airline around 30% less per seat than the 737s that it had previously favored. All in all, Planespotters.net reports that easyJet flew 84 737 family members between 1995 and 2011. Meanwhile, it has since operated 399 A320 family members, of which 170 are currently in its fleet.

easyJet’s subsidiaries also favor Airbus

The fleets of easyJet’s subsidiary airlines based in Austria and Switzerland also currently have all-Airbus makeups. In the case of the former, this came about when easyJet transferred some of its UK-registered A320 family jets to Austria. This saw them being re-registered there to fly for easyJet Europe, in order to avoid any potential difficulties arising from Brexit.

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easyJet Switzerland has followed its parent company in operating an all-Airbus fleet. Photo: Getty Images

As for easyJet Switzerland, its fleet followed a similar path to that of its parent company. According to Planespotters.net, it previously operated a fleet of eight Boeing 737s, some of which it inherited from its predecessor, TEA Switzerland. However, today, easyJet Switzerland’s fleet consists of five A319-100s and 22 A320-200s.

Short-term leases of other models

The Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families have inarguably remained the backbone of easyJet’s fleet throughout its history. However, that isn’t to say that these are the only aircraft types that the carrier has operated. Indeed, the BAe 146 and Boeing 757 have also had a part to play, with easyJet having briefly operated four of each of these models.

The 757-200s came first, boosting easyJet’s summer capacity during a three-month lease period. This spanned from June to September in 2010. The airline leased two of these 195 to 219-seat aircraft from Air Finland, one from Astraeus, and the other from Titan Airways.

easyJet Boeing 757
The Boeing 757-200 remains the largest aircraft that easyJet has operated. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia Commons

2018 then saw easyJet take a slightly different leasing approach, by targeting regional jets. Between January and November 2018, it operated three BAe 146-200s, as well as a larger 146-300. These helped the airline to lay on extra services to fill the gaps left in the market by the collapse of Air Berlin. It leased them from WDL Aviation.

Do you think easyJet is better off operating Airbus models, or would you rather it’d have stuck with the Boeing 737 family? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.