US-based low cost carrier Spirit Airlines is reportedly considering adding Boeing aircraft to its fleet. CEO Ted Christie has indicated that, as well as considering which A320 family aircraft they might add in the future, the airline is also contemplating ‘larger’ Boeing products too.
“The A321neo is certainly something we’re looking at, but we’re also in conversations with Boeing about their larger airplane too, so it’s all on the table.”
Going for Boeing would be a big change for the all-Airbus airline and something that could prove costly in terms of scaling up spares, crew training and maintenance.
Would Spirit really consider Boeing?
Although, in the past, Spirit operated a whole range of McDonnel Douglas aircraft, by 2006 it had phased out every single one. All were replaced by A320 family aircraft, of which it currently flies a fleet of 136.
Spirit has on order 43 A320neos and just one A320ceo version. By the end of the year, it hopes to have a fleet of 144 aircraft, and by the end of 2021, this will have reached 177 planes, all made up of A320 family aircraft.
Clearly, a move to Boeing would be a massive change for the low cost carrier, and one which would come with different requirements for everything from tooling to pilot training and more. It seems absurd that they would consider Boeing planes, but perhaps there’s a reason for this.
Right now, Boeing needs all the support it can get for its 737 MAX family of aircraft. The likelihood is that they are willing to offer an amazing deal to Spirit, which could offset the associated costs to the carrier of introducing a new fleet type.
A decision soon?
Back in September last year, the at-the-time CEO of Spirit Airlines Robert Fornaro told Flight Global that he wasn’t averse to adding a new aircraft type to its all-Airbus fleet. At the time, he said that they would not rule out adding the A220, Embraer products or aircraft made by Boeing.
Although a single fleet type is a key element of a solid low cost strategy, Fornaro was confident that it wouldn’t erode the airline’s competitive advantage. He mentioned also that the A321LR and, at the time unannounced, XLR would be on the table too, alongside long-range Boeing narrowbodies.
At the time, the airline had mentioned making future fleet decisions in the early part of the new year. However, by February, this goalpost had shifted to a midyear order decision. Although Fornaro retired at the end of 2018, incoming CEO Ted Christie seems to hold the same opinion about fleet diversification.
Speaking to AIN Online, he said,
“While it would be natural from a historical perspective to think that a single aircraft fleet type is the most efficient use of aircraft, there are examples in our history where that’s not true … it is in our best interests to drive the best deal, so we want to make sure we’re ticking all the boxes. We’re a happy Airbus customer, but we’ve got to evaluate all the options open to us.”
Whether Spirit opts for Boeing or Airbus remains to be seen. However, as we are now past the midpoint suggested for firming up an order, perhaps we’re going to find out soon.