EasyJet A320 options could buy time for fleet talks

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UK budget carrier EasyJet is considering converting additional Airbus A320 options in order to buy time to complete its assessment of potential aircraft types for its future fleet.

It has finished its technical evaluation but is engaged in commercial discussions with Boeing, Bombardier and Airbus as well as engine manufacturers Pratt & Whitney and CFM International.

But while the talks and evaluation are "well underway", says the airline, it is looking at converting three A320 options to "allow the time necessary to achieve the optimal commercial outcome".

The additional A320s would ensure sufficient capacity for EasyJet to operate its planned summer 2014 network schedule and give time to finalise the new fleet proposal to shareholders.

EasyJet says this proposal will cover not only the new fleet selection - with deliveries starting after 2017 - but also the bridging period from 2015-17.

The airline aims to introduce more fuel-efficient types as well as introduce 180-seat aircraft to replace 156-seat Airbus A319s.

Its fleet at the end of December 2012 totalled 213 aircraft, comprising 56 A320s and 157 A319s.

EasyJet says that its new fleet proposal is intended to support "prudent" capacity increases of 3-5%.

The airline disclosed its latest update on the fleet replacement as it predicted it would keep first-half pre-tax losses to £50-75 million ($80-120 million), far lower than the £112 million figure posted last year.

Revenues for the three-month period increased by 9% to £833 million as passenger numbers rose by 6% to 13.7 million. The carrier says "capacity discipline" produced a slight increase in load factor to 88.6%.