(Adds CEO quotes, passenger numbers)
DUBAI, April 29 (Reuters) - Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways has put immediate aircraft order plans on hold in favour of expanding its fleet through aircraft leases, its chief executive said on Monday.
The listed budget airline had planned to decide between Airbus, Boeing, and Embraer for an order of up to 25 narrow-body jets.
“At the moment we are being opportunistic because there are quite a few distressed units available worldwide,” Rohit Ramachandran told Reuters at a CAPA aviation summit in Dubai.
“So rather than commit to a large aircraft order we are picking up these distressed units at fantastic lease rates.”
The aircraft are coming from other airlines who can no longer take them from the leasing companies, he said.
Jazeera had looked at Airbus’ A320neo, the Bombardier CSeries acquired by Airbus and rebranded the A220, Boeing’s 737 MAX, and Embraer’s E2.
“We finalised the RFP (request for proposal) but I held it back because we’re getting these phenomenal lease rates,” Ramachandran said.
An order could have been worth around $3 billion at list prices, but it is common for airlines to receive discounts.
Jazeera will expand its fleet to 16 leased A320 jets this year, and to at least 17 or 18 by the end of 2020, from the nine it operates today, Ramachandran said.
The airline is adding six new destinations this year, including a daily flight to London Gatwick, to expand its network to 33 airports.
Ramachandran said he expects to carry more than 2.6 million passengers this year given the network and fleet expansion. It carried 1.98 million passengers in 2018.
Jazeera is looking at various finance options to raise debt, although has no immediate plans and has $65 million in cash reserves, he added. (Reporting by Alex Cornwell; editing by Jason Neely and Louise Heavens)