18 June 2019
Hot on the heels of the Airbus A321XLR announcement, IAG have signed a letter of intent to purchase 200 Boeing 737MAX aircraft. If this does turn into a confirmed order then the group would take on both the MAX8 and the MAX10 between 2023 and 2027.
Personally, I feel its a little odd if the group places such a big order with Boeing, considering they are one of Airbus’ biggest customers, especially with regards to short haul aircraft. Iberia has a fleet of 39 A320 series, plus 22 with their spin-off Iberia Express. Vueling has a massive 121 fleet of Airbus A320 series aircraft – the only type in their fleet. British Airways has the grand total of 127 of the type in operation. Dublin based Aer Lingus has 37 of the shorthaul Airbus on its books and finally, new start up Level has 5.
With the case of Iberia, most, if not all of their A320 series are getting a bit long in the tooth now with the exception of the handful of A320neo’s the airline has recently taken delivery of. Spanish cousins Vueling has a pretty varied age span across their fleet with the oldest being a 2006 build and the newest entry to the fleet being an A320neo delivered to the airline just a matter of days ago. Its a similar story with British Airways – the first new delivery from Airbus was an A319 delivered in 1999 – and still going strong with the airline, where as the newest delivery is a month old A321neo. The Aer Lingus short haul fleet has a similar time span, with the airline due to take delivery of the A321LR shortly. And finally Level have a small fleet with a somewhat varied past to say the least.
It’s been said that the 737’s will be placed with Level, which I can understand – as mentioned above their fleet is relatively small and made up of all sorts of oddball A321’s, so they will have a new common fleet fairly easily. The other airline to receive the new MAX’s will be British Airways. On paper, this seems like an interesting decision to say the least, but if we delve a little deeper, it sort of makes sense. The airline will place them at their Gatwick hub, which is made up almost entirely of aircraft it acquired in the BMI takeover in 2012. The rest of the A320’s were only ever destined to be a stop gap until newer aircraft came online. These particular planes are in some cases third hand and one was rejected prior to delivery for being in such a poor state.
The final airline mentioned to be receiving these new Boeing’s is Vueling. Now this is one I’m struggling to see any logic behind. The A320’s they have are some of the newest in the group. And they are currently taking delivery of the A320neo, which is more or less the rival aircraft to the 737MAX.
Maybe there will be some shuffling of planes within the group? The older Iberia A320’s sold/scrapped and replaced with the newer Vueling aircraft. The older British Airways planes based at Gatwick sent off to the scrapyard to be replaced with the new Boeings. And a huge expansion for Level.
I guess Willie Walsh doesn’t want all his eggs in one basket after all with regards to fleet type after many years of trying to get one common fleet. Seeing how easily things can go wrong with regards to planes being grounded, I suppose I can see where he’s coming from, but do we really think there will be a mass grounding of the A320 at this stage of its life?
Either way, I’ll be looking forward to potentially getting some variety with regards to aircraft type on my future BA flights.