Easyjet order flies against Stelios ideas

BUDGET airline easyJet yesterday purchased 15 new Airbus A320 aircraft, as well as buying options for 33 additional jets.

The order comes despite warnings from the airline’s founder and largest shareholder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who recently expressed concern over easyJet’s expansion plans.

The Athens-born entrepreneur pressed the firm over its intentions to purchase additional aircraft in November following full-year results, urging the company to “carefully assess the financial viability of any fleet expansion”.

He added: “I remain very concerned with the strategy of the previous management which expanded the fleet to develop summer holiday routes leaving it with approximately 40 aircraft parked over the winter. Parked aircraft lose money.”

Despite Sir Stelio’s protests, the carrier yesterday pressed ahead to convert an existing option to buy the new planes, which have a list price of a combined $1.1bn (£710m), or $73m each.

easyJet also converted an order for 20 Airbus A319s to the more fuel efficient A320s, in a deal financed through cash, operating leases and debt.

Although the airline would not disclose the value of the deal, which comes as part of its existing supplier contract with Airbus, it said it had secured “substantial” price concessions on the latest purchase.

European manufacturer Airbus has been easyjet’s supplier since 2002, when the carrier turned away from US manufacturer Boeing.

The airline has a fleet of 192 aircraft, including nine Boeing jets, and options to purchase a further 73 planes.

The latest additions will be brought on line by 2013, with no specific routes earmarked for operation.