Air Canada reportedly in talks to add Airbus A321s as COVID subsides

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Charlotte Ryan, Siddharth Philip and Layan Odeh, Bloomberg News | 23 February 2022

Air Canada is in talks with Airbus SE about adding longer-distance A321neo jets alongside its fleet of Boeing Co. 737 narrowbodies as travel demand rebounds, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The carrier is looking at ordering 10 to 20 aircraft, one of the people said. The negotiations are preliminary and may not lead to a deal, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing matters that aren’t public.

While Air Canada was an established operator of Airbus’s original A320 family, it chose the Boeing Max in the contest between new-generation planes. Adding a small fleet of A321neos would bring a further boost for an Airbus model that can carry 220 people in two classes over longer distances than the rival Max 10.

Air Canada is also talking with jet lessors about sourcing the A321s, one of the people said.

An Airbus spokeswoman declined to comment on any discussions the company may have with customers. 

Air Canada referenced a Feb. 18 conference call, when Chief Executive Officer Michael Rousseau discussed fleet renewal initiatives as the airline emerges from the pandemic. Last May, the CEO said that Airbus A321LR, or long range, models “potentially have a place in the Air Canada fleet as we go forward.”
 

AIRLINE PIVOTS

Other airlines have also returned to growth mode, looking ahead to fielding newer, less-polluting planes in the post-pandemic era as the drag on demand caused by the coronavirus starts to lift.

Qatar Airways, JetBlue Airways Corp. and Allegiant Travel Co. are among carriers making fresh narrow-body commitments since the start of the year. 

IAG SA, the parent of British Airways, is in advanced talks on a mixed order for dozens of single-aisle jets, including up to 50 Boeing Co. 737 Max and Airbus A320s also being discussed, Reuters reported earlier, citing industry sources. 

The order would be a step down from the 200-plane Max commitment to announced with fanfare at the Paris air show in 2019, yet it would still mark a victory for Boeing after IAG reopened the contest last year. IAG currently operates Airbus narrow-bodies.
 

AIR CANADA PLANS

Air Canada, which said Tuesday it will relaunch 34 international routes, announced last week that it had reinstated a commitment for 12 Airbus A220s, a smaller jet originally designed and built by Canada’s Bombardier Inc. 

The deliveries were canceled in 2020 after the virus stifled demand and Air Canada struggled to secure pandemic aid from the government. The carrier also scaled back its Boeing Max deal by a third to 40, and deferred some of those handovers. 

In November, Air Canada changed course, accelerating Max deliveries and reversing two of the A220 cancellations to restore its network.

As it stands, the fleet comprises around 170 aircraft, including older A320s and a Boeing-dominated wide-body lineup.

The A321, prized by airlines for its combination of capacity and range, is in short supply with yearslong production backlogs. Airbus’s cancellation of a Qatar Airways order amid a contract dispute could free up some capacity, though a London judge has ordered the manufacturer to hold the slots for now.