(Bloomberg) -- Allegiant Airlines is weighing purchases of used Airbus SE planes as soon as early 2021, bucking an unprecedented travel collapse that has gutted demand for jetliners.
The carrier has been “inundated” with calls from airlines and aircraft lessors seeking to sell planes at deep discounts as they contend with the coronavirus pandemic, said Allegiant Chief Financial Officer Greg Anderson. The company would consider jet deals in “onesies and twosies” but would look at something larger if demand continues to grow “and we don’t go backwards,” he said.
“It’s an opportunity for us to buy A320s used and to get those at lower fixed costs than in the past,” Anderson said in an interview Monday during Boyd Group’s International Aviation Forecast Summit. “We’re trying to keep as much flexibility as possible, but we’ve got some irons in the fire in the event we feel good about demand, and it’s coming back.”
Allegiant is known for buying used aircraft and currently has 24 Airbus SE A319 jets and 57 A320 planes. The Las Vegas-based airline is a unit of Allegiant Travel Co.
The current market value of a 2010-vintage A320 has plunged 20% since the start of the year to $16.5 million, Ishka Ltd., which tracks aircraft trading, said in a Sept. 25 report.
The carrier’s focus on leisure travel has provided a measure of insulation from the plunge in corporate and international demand. Allegiant, which serves about 125 cities, trimmed third-quarter flying capacity 6.5% from a year earlier, well below reductions by other airlines.
“As early as next year we can start getting back to an earnings discussion versus a cash flow break-even discussion,” he said. “If things continue as they have been over the past few months, a slow and steady build, we feel very optimistic we’ll have an earnings story and a very meaningful one at that.”
Overall domestic travel demand, measured by passengers going through security lines, remains about a third of 2019 levels.
Allegiant burned an average of $1.3 million in cash daily during the third quarter, the company said in an Oct. 8 regulatory filing, with the fourth quarter figure expected to be “well below” $1 million a day. The carrier is “seeing more strength” in demand for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Anderson said.
(Adds information on used aircraft prices in fifth paragraph)
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