When Indigo Partners decides to buy planes the company does not mess around. Previously responsible for the one of the largest orders of single-aisle planes in the world, the company continues its growth plans with a firm order for 255 additional A321neo aircraft, announced at this year’s Dubai Air Show. As with the prior deal, these planes will be distributed among the four low cost carriers owned by Indigo Partners around the world.
With these aircraft, Wizz, Frontier, Volaris and JetSMART will continue to offer low fares, stimulate the markets they serve and improve their industry-leading sustainability profile.– Bill Franke, Managing Partner of Indigo Partners
The aircraft ordered this week are a mix of A321neos and A321XLRs. Indigo expects to deliver them to its individual operating airlines as follows:
- Wizz Air: 102 aircraft (75 A321neo + 27 A321XLR)
- Frontier: 91 aircraft (A321neo)
- Volaris: 39 aircraft (A321neo)
- JetSMART: 23 aircraft (21 A321neo + 2 A321XLR)
In addition to this order, Volaris and JetSMART will upconvert 38 A320neo to A321neo from their existing aircraft backlogs.
Betting beyond the ULCC rebound
An order this large, especially on top of the prior commitment, suggests the airlines are not just betting on a rebound of travel demand. Rather, this looks a lot like the airlines aim to capture market share from competitors.
Indeed, this level of growth will necessitate massive expansion of the operations across all the portfolio airlines. Frontier Airlines, for example, expects to more than double its fleet from 110 aircraft at the end of 2021 to 272 by the end of 2029.
The Frontier fleet will be all A320neo family by that point, phasing out older models. It will also offer significantly more seats per plane than today. The average number of seats on board today registers at 194, for a total of 21,340 seats in Frontier‘s fleet. By the end of the decade the average number of seats per Frontier plane will hit 223, for a total of 60,656 expected in operations.
The Frontier fleet plan also assumes execution of an option to convert 18 A320neo future deliveries to the A321XLR. Given that inclusion in the published calculations it seems a smart bet that option will exercise.
On the other side of the Atlantic Wizz Air similarly anticipates massive growth. Currently flying just under 130 planes, the company’s planned expansion will help support growth across Europe and beyond.
Of particular note, the A321XLR model opens significant options for destinations from the new Wizz base in Abu Dhabi, opened at the beginning of 2021. The carrier previously suggested reaching deeper into Europe and delivering sixth freedom connecting traffic via Abu Dhabi. This includes pushing traffic into India and Africa. The longer range planes will help facilitate that growth.
Adding more A321neo planes to the fleet also continues the per-seat fuel efficiency growth CEO József Váradi continues to tout for his carrier, based on a combination of cabin density and newer engine technology.
Volaris and JetSMART also expect significant growth, even if not quite as dramatic in raw seat count as their larger airline cousins. JetSMART’s recent equity/loyalty/codeshare deal with American Airlines should deliver a substantial boost for the operation.
Fitting the fleet
The 2019 Indigo Partners order proved a boon for seat-maker Recaro, securing an exclusive deal to supply more than 100,000 seats across all the airline operations. That was the first time Indigo consolidated that decision making and contracting, but almost certainly not the last.
This year’s order is smaller, but still significant in terms of potential for suppliers. Indigo Partners negotiates aggressively on these deals, to be sure. Still, expect suppliers (seating and otherwise) to be chomping at the bit for a major contact like this one.
More news from the 2021 Dubai Air Show
- Iraqi Airways chooses Panasonic Avionics for IFE/C future
- Saudia selects Inmarsat GX for A321neo connectivity
- Airbus snags another massive A321neo/A321XLR deal from Indigo Partners
- Panasonic Avionics picked for Saudia IFE play
- Airbus scores a LiFi win for a trio of corporate jets
- Scratch another IFC player from the commercial market
- Emirates (re)commits big to Premium Economy
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