Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air will introduce a new aircraft type to its fleet next year, company officials announced.
Allegiant, which operates a fleet of 58 twin-engine MD-80 jets and owns six twin-engine Boeing 757s it is using on flights between the West Coast and Hawaii, will lease nine twin-engine Airbus A319 jets and buy 10 more.
Using A319s will enable the airline to expand the number of cities it serves or add routes between existing Allegiant cities.
The plane’s range enables it to fly any domestic route in the continental United States. It could even fly from the West Coast to Hawaii, but Allegiant says it has no plans to use the planes for that route.
The airline will look at opportunities that may occur as major airlines reduce service to small cities with their commuter partners. Delta Air Lines recently announced it would close its Comair subsidiary, which uses 50-passenger regional jets to serve small cities.
The company said the aircraft acquisitions also would enable it to keep costs low and allow it to continue to offer low fares.
Citing confidentiality agreements, the company did not disclose financial details of the transactions.
Company officials say the first two jets would be in operation by the second quarter of 2013. The other 17 planes would be delivered through the third quarter of 2015.
In a conference call Monday morning, Allegiant President Andrew Levy said the company would continue to operate most of its MD-80 fleet, retiring two 130-passenger MD-87 versions of the plane that are no longer economical to operate.
Allegiant will lease nine jets used by British discount carrier easyJet from GE Capital Aviation Services and lease and eventually purchase 10 jets from Cebu Pacific Air, an airline that operates in the Philippines.
The company said the acquisitions are in support of the airline’s growth strategies.
The A319, used by several carriers at McCarran International Airport, including Florida-based discounter Spirit Airlines, has a maximum capacity of 156 passengers and has a range of 3,400 miles.
Levy said the savings of the more fuel-efficient A319 is what made the acquisitions compelling.
Despite the added expenses of training crews and maintaining a new supply of spare aircraft parts, Levy said, it makes sense for Allegiant to add the new plane type.
The A319s are more fuel-efficient than the MD-80s and some models are equipped with wingtip “Sharklets” that reduce fuel burn and emissions, and increase range, payload capacity and operating performance.
The company estimates that it would add incremental net income of $1 million per plane over a year.
The company said the new aircraft type won’t result in a change to its business model. Part of that model includes acquiring used aircraft from airlines that are upgrading their fleets.
Levy said the A319s the company is acquiring will be between seven and 10 years old when delivered.