Greek carrier Aegean Airlines has signed an MOU to acquire 20 Airbus A320neos and 10 A321neos, plus 12 options.
Alongside the MOU, which is expected to be firmed in June, Airbus said Aegean will also acquire "a significant number" of A320neo family aircraft from leasing companies.
The decision, which was anticipated by ATW, comes as Aegean Airlines prepares to grow to a 75-aircraft fleet by 2023. Aegean, which acquired Greek rival Olympic Air in 2013, currently operates 46 Airbus A320-family aircraft and 12 turboprops. Aegean took most of its current A320ceos around 2007-11 and their leases will come to an end around 2023-24.
"We have worked diligently over more than 12 months, across different teams within Aegean to structure as well as to evaluate the proposals of the two candidate manufacturers, before selecting Airbus," Aegean CEO Dimitrios Gerogiannis said, announcing the MOU March 28.
If firmed, the order would be valued at US$5 billion at list prices, which Aegean said is the largest private investment in Greece.
Aegean said it will take "at least" 10 A321neos, but under the commitment it has the right to convert further A320neos to the larger variant.
The Greek carrier plans to use the aircraft to cut operating costs, offer new passenger services and to use the increased range to reach new destinations and markets.
Aegean has started engine negotiations and expects to choose between the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G or CFM International LEAP-1A by July 2018.
"The technology in these aircraft is excellent. But this is available to many operators. It only becomes a competitive advantage thanks to our people," Gerogiannis said.
Last year, Aegean operated 37 A320s, eight A321s and one A319, as well as 12 turboprops. The agreement forms part of the company's overall fleet expansion and renewal program, planned for 2020-2025.
Under Aegean's five-year plan to 2023, Gerogiannis is planning to add another 25 destinations out of Athens and grow its passenger numbers from 13.2 million to 16 million. However, this plan is not definite.
"I don't believe in the famous five-year plan, because things change so rapidly in the airline business. Even if things are good, we are always looking for the black swan [unexpected event] because we know something unexpected will happen. We would really rather be cautious than the other way around," he said during a recent media briefing in London.
Aegean launched in 1999 and has focused on international growth since 2006. The airline survived a "perfect storm," of an unsupportive government, fierce competition, Olympic's privatization and the Greek economic crash, which wiped 25% from the country's GDP.