easyJet to buy 135 Airbus A320 planes for $12bn

No-frills airline easyJet announced a deal to purchase 135 Airbus single-aisle A320 passenger planes, including 100 new generation neo aircraft for $11.9 billion (7.5 billion pounds), after agreeing sizeable discounts.

EasyJet, issuing a statement amid the Paris Air Show where European aircraft maker Airbus is battling for orders with US rival Boeing, said that is has secured an option to buy an additional 100 A320neo planes.

"I am delighted that easyJet is able to announce its fleet plans today," said the airline's chief executive Carolyn McCall.

"All manufacturers competed hard for the easyJet business. Both Airbus and Boeing offered us new generation aircraft that met our requirements and offered greatly improved fuel efficiency.

"Ultimately, Airbus offered us the best deal, and at a price with a greater discount to the list price than their landmark fleet purchase with easyJet in 2002," she added.

EasyJet is to acquire 35 current generation A320 aircraft for delivery between 2015 and 2017 under an existing option agreement, and 100 new generation A320neo planes for delivery between 2017 and 2022 under a new deal.

It added that 85 of the 135 ordered aircraft will be used to replace ageing passenger planes, with the remaining 50 used to build on easyJet's strategy of increasing its seat capacity of between three and five percent annually.

The huge transaction is subject to approval by easyJet shareholders, including its largest -- the airline's founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou -- who has bitterly opposed the company's desire to purchase new planes.

Haji-Ioannou, or simply Stelios as he is widely known, was meanwhile last year defeated in his attempt to throw out a multi-million-pound pay deal for executives. Stelios and his family currently own almost 37 percent of easyJet.

The founder argues that easyJet should be returning money to shareholders via the payment of dividends, rather than increasing its seating capacity.