British low-cost airline easyJet has signed a ten-year deal worth $1 billion (SFr1.26 billion) with SR Technics to maintain its fleet of Airbus A319 planes.
The contract will help the Zurich-based company, which employs 2,800 people in Switzerland, offset its reliance on national carrier Swiss.
SR Technics already maintains easyJet's fleet of Boeing 737 planes, which is set to shrink to 32 from 50 by 2007 as the airline phases out older models.
The low-cost carrier said in a statement on Wednesday that it plans to expand its fleet of A319 planes to 120 from 54 by 2008 and that SR Technics would carry out the maintenance, excluding engines.
According to the maintenance firm, this is one of the largest contracts ever signed for the care of one type of aircraft. But the anticipated flow of revenue will depend on easyJet successfully completing its expansion.
For SR Technics, the agreement with easyJet reduces its reliance on Swiss, the successor of defunct Swissair. Swissair and the maintenance company shared the same parent company, SAirGroup, before the airline folded.
Two British investment companies, Star Capital and 3i, now own SR Technics jointly with company management.
The deal reinforces SR Technics's presence in the low-cost airline sector. While it had already begun to service easyJet's new Airbuses last year, the initial contract was only temporary.
The budget carrier and SR Technics first started collaborating after the maintenance company purchased its competitor, FLS Aerospace, last year. The Danish firm had a contract to service easyJet's Boeings.
Maintenance will be done at Geneva and Basel airports, as well as Luton near London.
The low-cost airline expects to cut its maintenance costs by more than a quarter thanks to its deal with SR Technics.
swissinfo with agencies
Owned by a group of private-equity investors (3i, Star Capital and SR Technics management).
Workforce: 5,500 (2,800 in Switzerland).
Generates operating revenue of $1.2 billion (of which SFr955 million is from SR Technics Switzerland).
Has over 100 customers around the world, handles more than 350 aircraft.
SR Technics was fully owned by SAir Group. With the collapse of Swissair and the demise of SAir Group in 2001, SR Technics was transferred to its new ownership in December 2002.