An Update On International Airlines Group’s Fleet Plans

A survey of the fleet renewal and expansion plans for the airlines of IAG following orders placed at the Paris Air Show.

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Aer Lingus & Iberia Airbus A321neo XLR aircraft, BA Airbus A321neo aircraft, BA Boeing 777-9 aircraft.
Aer Lingus & Iberia Airbus A321neo XLR aircraft, BA Airbus A321neo aircraft, BA Boeing 777-9 aircraft. (Image Credit: Airbus, British Airways, Boeing)

IAG airlines are not normally ones to make headline grabbing aircraft orders at air shows.

Such muscular displays of buying power are normally left to others. This year, however, IAG stole the show with a Letter Of Intent to buy 200 Boeing 737 MAX 8/10 aircraft from Boeing. These have been earmarked for BA at London Gatwick, LEVEL and Vueling.

If it becomes an order, it will be IAG’s single biggest aircraft order in its 8 year history and it will more than exceed IAG’s current short-haul growth ambitions. According to press reports, Airbus did not get the chance to tender against Boeing, and would like to make a counter-offer to IAG.

This week’s news, and other recent announcements this year, does give a little more colour on IAG’s plans to renew and grow its fleet.

To recap, at IAG’s Capital Markets Day last November, IAG set out its plan to grow its short-haul fleet from 386 to 467 aircraft by 2023. Long-haul aircraft are expected to increase from 201 to 249 by 2023.

However, in terms of how this is done, much of this growth – some 128 short-haul and 44 long-haul aircraft – was left as “to be decided”.

International Airlines Group Capital Markets Day
International Airlines Group Capital Markets Day (Image Credit: International Airlines Group)

Taking account of recent announcements, we now know of the following plans by airline:

Aer Lingus

This week, IAG ordered 6 Airbus A321neo Xtra Long Range aircraft for Aer Lingus.

This may in fact be the conversion of part of a larger original A321neo Long Range order. Aer Lingus now has 8 of these aircraft on order.

All of these aircraft are expected be used for transatlantic routes, both for new routes and additional frequencies on existing routes.

Officially, Aer Lingus still has an order for 5 Airbus A350-900 aircraft but, in all likelihood, these will be allocated to other IAG airlines or switched to other Airbus family aircraft. Aer Lingus is expected to acquire a small number of additional Airbus A330 aircraft.

There’s much less detail on plans for expansion of its short-haul fleet. Clearly, Aer Lingus faces a very competitive market in Ireland. However, it will need to generate short-haul feed for its expanding long-haul network.

British Airways

Taking account of announcements so far this year, BA’s fleet plan for new aircraft at London Gatwick and Heathrow looks like this:

Short-haul

Airbus A320neo: 22 aircraft ordered, of which 10 have been delivered.
Airbus A321neo: 13 aircraft ordered, of which 5 have been delivered.
Boeing 737 MAX 8/10: An unspecified number yet to be ordered for London Gatwick.

The Airbus order was recently adjusted with Airbus A320neo aircraft reduced from 25 to 22 and Airbus A321neo aircraft increased from 10 to 13.

Long-haul

Airbus A350-1000: 18 aircraft, with options for 36 more. 4 will be delivered this year.
Boeing 777-300: 4 aircraft, to be delivered in 2020.
Boeing 777-900: 18 aircraft, to be delivered from 2022 to 2025, with options for 24 more.
Boeing 787-9: options for 6 more aircraft.
Boeing 787-10: 12 aircraft, to delivered from 2020 to 2023.

With Airbus now ceasing production of the A380, short of another airline effectively paying BA to take A380s off their hands, there is now not a chance of BA acquiring any more.

Whilst existing orders comfortably cover BA’s plans to retire the Boeing 747 and replace a small number of Boeing 777-200 aircraft, it’s noteworthy that neither the Airbus A321neo Long Range or Xtra Long Range currently feature in BA’s plans.

The Boeing 787 clearly serves the airline well in opening up of new transatlantic routes. However, it has not been effective replacement for former Boeing 767 routes to Africa, many of which have been suspended. The Airbus A321neo XLR would reach many destinations in Africa from London Heathrow.

Iberia

Iberia has 20 Airbus A350-900 on order, 5 of which have been delivered.

IAG also announced this week an order for 8 Airbus A321neo XLR aircraft for Iberia. Although not explicitly said, this is likely to come from existing Airbus A320 family orders as IAG has the right to switch these to other aircraft.

Iberia currently has 13 Airbus A320neo aircraft on order, of which 4 have been delivered, and 7 Airbus A321neo aircraft on order

LEVEL

IAG has substantial growth ambitions for its virtual airline LEVEL.

It plans to grow to 42 aircraft by 2023. It currently operates a mixture of Airbus A321 and Airbus A330 aircraft through IAG subsidiaries (BA OpenSkies in Paris Orly, Iberia in Barcelona) and franchisees (ANISEC in Austria). IAG has yet to announce a significant long-haul aircraft order for LEVEL.

Vueling

Vueling has 35 Airbus A320neo on order, of which 14 have been delivered. It has also has 12 Airbus A321neo on order.

It will, subject to a final order, receive a share of 200 Boeing 737 MAX 8/10 aircraft, along with BA at London Gatwick and LEVEL.

It should be noted that fleet plans are under constant review. They are dependent on aircraft and engine manufacturers having the capacity to meet demand. They are also subject to economic and geopolitical events. A single shock to the industry will result in the acceleration of aircraft retirements and new aircraft deliveries being cancelled or deferred.

We welcome any thoughts and comments below: