Despite having only been in operation for nine years, Volotea’s fleet has undergone several interesting changes during this time. For instance, the Spanish low-cost carrier is known for having been Europe’s last Boeing 717 operators. However, going forward, the airline is set to focus on Airbus models. Today, its CEO confirmed that this may include the use of the A220.
Potential medium-term A220 plans
As Volotea has grown, so has the size of the aircraft that it operates. Speaking today in an interview with the Aviation Week Network, its CEO Carlos Muñoz explained how it had increased the capacity of its aircraft incrementally.
Having begun with the 125-seat Boeing 717, it has since added the 150/156-seat Airbus A319 and 180-seat A320 to its portfolio. The logical next step would seemingly be the A321, and Muñoz is confident that Volotea could fill its 30 extra seats based on its current load factors. However, he is also interested in a smaller Airbus product, namely the A220. He stated:
“Airbus is obviously a very strong partner of this company, and now they own the [A220 program]. So that’s definitely on the cards. For sure, we’re interested, and we’ll keep on looking at the mid-term. That’s one of the options.”
Whether the A220 or the A321 (or indeed something else) comes next, Muñoz is keen to press on with Volotea’s planned fleet expansion. Before COVID-19, the airline had been eyeing a larger fleet in the region of 40-60 aircraft by 2022. While reaching such a target may not be possible in the current climate, it certainly isn’t out of the question in the longer-term. Specifically, Muñoz plans for Volotea to “keep on growing at whatever pace makes sense.”
Volotea’s varied fleet history
Volotea has taken a dynamic approach to its fleet during its first decade of operations. It began as an all-Boeing 717 operator, and Planespotters.net reports that it ultimately flew 19 examples of the type. However, the carrier also has a strong relationship with Airbus.
For instance, as Muñoz notes, it operates the so-called ‘Airbus shuttle’ between the European manufacturer’s facilities in France and Germany. As such, the addition of Airbus models was perhaps to be expected. The airline received its first Airbus A319 in December 2017, and it now operates 20 examples with an average age of 16.6 years old.
This relatively high average age is because, as an airline, Volotea prefers to operate mid-life aircraft, rather than brand-new models. The Boeing to Airbus transition came to an end in January this year, when the airline operated its last 717 flight.
January 2021 also saw Volotea receive its first Airbus A320, and Muñoz plans for 15 examples to be in operation by the summer. These aircraft are set to enter service next month, and will fly on more than 60 routes. The use of a single-family fleet is an aspect that is common among LCCs. The airline may also bolster its fleet in the short term with ACMI leases.
Calm in a crisis
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has proved a significant financial threat for airlines worldwide. Indeed, 2020 saw several airlines fold under the increased financial pressure brought on by the crisis. However, Volotea has found itself in a comparatively healthy position.
In a way, the airline was well prepared for such a downturn due to its existing business model. Specifically, many of its routes carry a seasonal focus. This meant that Volotea was used to the peaks and troughs in aircraft activity that have become more common in the last year. Of the flights that it did operate, it managed an impressive load factor of 90.7%.
Furthermore, the carrier has been able to secure just shy of €150 million in loans from eight banks. This has provided a layer of stability for Volotea as it attempts to navigate its way out of this unprecedented crisis. Once it has done so, it will certainly be interesting to see how its fleet develops, both in terms of its size and the aircraft, such as the A220, it may contain.
What do you make of the news that Volotea may operate the Airbus A220 going forward? If you have flown on the type, do you think it would be a good fit for the airline? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!