September 25, 2013
If an airline orders more than 100 new aircraft—then, two months later says that 95% of its annual maintenance and engineering contracted work is up for re-tender by 2017, the industry should take note.
While EasyJet did exactly this in July and September, the news does not signal a seismic shift in its operations. Rather, the carrier is continuing to do what it does well—run a lean, low-cost operation.
EasyJet considered proposals from Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier over a 20-month period, but Airbus’s final price seemed to clinch the deal.
The airline’s young fleet will grow in the next five years from 215 to 280, as it starts taking the 35 current-generation jets—all of which will be delivered during 2015-17. Airbus will deliver 100 A320NEOs from 2017-22.
Although EasyJet is still evaluating engines for the NEOs, “our current expectation is to make a decision early next year, but we’re very focused on making sure we have the right evaluation process more than we are focused on the deadline,” says Gary Smith, the airline’s head of powerplant and fleet transition.
EasyJet is very process-driven and just held a supplier conference to educate vendors about its fleet changes, and encourage them to move beyond traditional maintenance approaches. “We want to leverage our fleet size in terms of technology and innovation” to gain operational efficiencies and costs, he says. Smith especially sees opportunities for logistics and prognostics.
“We fly 1,200-1,400 sectors per day,” so efficiency gains with those kinds of numbers multiply savings, he explains.
For Smith, this isn’t just a cost-cutting exercise; like EasyJet’s decade-old relationship with SR Technics, he sees the steady volume of predictable maintenance work he brings as an opportunity for MROs to improve their processes and efficiencies simultaneously. Both sides benefit.
Waiting for the more-efficient NEOs, however, will drive the fleet’s average age of 5 years today up to about 8 years in 2018, when it will plateau, says Smith. The oldest aircraft will shift from 8-10 years to in excess of 12, which means more-costly heavy maintenance checks will be required over the next five years than previously planned, as the airline waits for the NEOs to arrive.