Allegiant Air’s fast-tracked shift to an all-Airbus fleet is paying dividends, according to numbers from its first full quarter since it parked its last McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

Despite seeing its average fleet size drop to 80 from 91 year-over-year, Nevada-based LCC Allegiant’s first-quarter metrics included a 4.8% increase in total departures and a 17% increase in aircraft utilization. Spare aircraft dropped from 11 to four, further bolstering operations.

“For the March quarter, we produced an industry-leading completion factor of 99.2%,” Allegiant CFO and COO Scott Sheldon said on a recent earnings call. “Despite significant headwinds from weather-related delays and cancellations, we reduced our regular ops cost by $2 million and over $14 million on a trailing 12-month basis.”

Allegiant parked more than 30 MD-80s in 2018, speeding up a retirement schedule to help address reliability problems that the aging aircraft were creating. The changes left the carrier with 76 aircraft at the start of 2019, or 13 fewer than it had at the beginning of 2018.

But the short-term fleet decline—the airline plans to have 93 aircraft at year-end and 102 by 2021—has been worth it.

“The economics and performance of the A320-series aircraft cannot go understated,” SVP-treasury Greg Anderson said.

Allegiant operates 89 A320-family aircraft—37 A319ceos and 52 A320ceos—Aviation Week’s Fleet Discovery shows.

The reliability of the newer aircraft helped Allegiant set a new daily block-hour mark for a full month in March, hitting 9.9 hrs. per day. The figure “is 40% higher than our January utilization, showcasing the same flexibility that has always been key to our business model, with the upside of being able to peak up the strongest seasons more effectively than as an MD-80 operator,” Anderson said.

The airline also posted a run of more than 120 consecutive days without a maintenance cancellation from Dec. 16—a company record.

“This quarter demonstrated the earnings potential of our all-Airbus fleet,” CEO Maury Gallagher Jr said. “Despite having 11 fewer aircraft compared to the same period last year, our airline’s operating income rose more than $16 million and we had a 22% margin.”

Allegiant’s 1Q net income was $57.1 million, a 3.5% rise from $55.2 million in the year-ago quarter. The airline saw total fuel gallons fall 4.5%, while block hours rose 4.1% and ASMs increased 4.9%. CASM-ex rose 3.7% to 6.67 cents but is expected to fall in each of the year’s remaining quarters and be down 1.5%-3.5% for the full year.

The airline is projecting a full-year ASM increase of 7.5-9.5%, with the largest spike coming in 2Q, at 13%-14%.

Sean Broderick, sean.broderick@aviationweek.com