Airbus Canada A220 site in Mirabel expands with the addition of a 125,000 ft2 sub-assembly area

  • Concentration of aircraft fuselage section preparation at one location
  • Supporting A220 aircraft production ramp up, expected to more than double

MIRABEL, QC, March 29, 2022 /CNW Telbec/ – An additional 125,000 ft2 (11,600 m2) area to support the upstream assembly of A220 aircraft subcomponents has been unveiled by Airbus in Mirabel. The additional space, equivalent to more than seven NHL ice hockey rinks, has been designed to support the A220 production ramp up capacity, which is expected to more than double in the next few years. It is Airbus’ first subcomponents pre-assembly zone (“pre-FAL”) outside Europe. With this latest addition, Airbus Canada’s A220 site in Mirabel is now close to 1.4 million ft2 (130,000 m2) and employs over 2,500 people.

“It is a great pleasure to unveil today our new sub-assembly area, which will contribute to more than doubling the A220 aircraft production capacity over the next few years. The expansion of our Mirabel site, with the addition of this new zone, is a clear signal ofAirbus’ confidence in the A220 programme. The pre-FAL is central to ensuring the success of the A220 production ramp-up,” said Benoît Schultz, Chief Executive Officer, Airbus Canada, during the official visit, held in Mirabel with employees, the Quebec Minister of Economy and Innovation, M. Pierre Fitzgibbon, representatives of Investissement Quebec as well as Airbus executives.

“The new Mirabel pre-assembly plant will enable Airbus to reduce its assembly costs and boost the A220 program’s competitiveness. This news confirms the strategic positioning of the aerospace industry in Quebec,” said Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec Minister of Economy and Innovation.

This new sub-assembly area will increase the efficiency of A220 production operations and significantly reduce the time required for the aircraft final assembly. From now on, the preparation of aircraft fuselage sections will be concentrated in one location. After sub-assembly, these components will be sent to one of the two A220 final assembly sites in either Mirabel, Quebec or Mobile, Alabama. This new process will enable the A220 production rate to increase from six  aircraft a month to 14 aircraft per month by the middle of the decade.

The new A220 Pre-FAL construction works began about a year ago, and required collaboration with major local suppliers. Around 250 employees from the Mirabel A220 site supported the preparation of the new sub-assembly operations in this area. Over the past few months, these employees have received customized trainings to help them transition from working on a fixed workstation to working on a “pulsed line”.

🔗 Link to Video

The Mirabel A220 site is the headquarters of the A220 programme. In addition to this new pre-assembly line and two final assembly lines, Mirabel site also includes engineering, support functions, in-service support as well as development and delivery to customers. A second assembly site is also located in Mobile, Alabama, U.S.A., and is dedicated to the final assembly and delivery of A220 aircraft for the U.S. market.

To date, more than 25 customers have placed firm orders for 740 A220 aircraft out of which around 200 have been delivered to over 15 customers. The Airbus Canada Limited Partnership, which is responsible for the A220 aircraft programme, hastwo shareholders: Airbus, which holds 75% of the shares, and Investissement Québec, which holds 25%.

Airbus in Canada

With a presence in several Canadian provinces, Airbus has approximately 4,000 employees across the country and generates more than 23,000 indirect jobs in the Canadian aerospace sector through various collaborations. Thus, Airbus procures from approximately 665 suppliers in nine Canadian provinces, for an approximate value of CAD$ 1.8 billion. All Airbus divisions are present in Canada: commercial aircraft (A220) in Mirabel, QC, helicopters in Fort Erie, ON, and defence and space in Ottawa, ON. Airbus’ wholly-owned subsidiaries, STELIA Aerospace and NAVBLUE, also have operations in the country.

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

From BNN Bloomberg News 🔗 link to source story

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.

JetBlue Adds 30 Airbus A220s to Order Book, Further Enhancing the Financial and Operational Performance of Its Next Generation Fleet

JetBlue Converts 30 Aircraft Options to Firm Order, Accelerating E190 Retirement

Airbus A220 aircraft. Photo courtesy of JetBlue. (Photo: Business Wire)
Airbus A220 aircraft. Photo courtesy of JetBlue. (Photo: Business Wire)

February 15, 2022 10:00 AM Eastern Standard Time

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–JetBlue (NASDAQ: JBLU) today announced an agreement to exercise its option to add 30 additional Airbus A220-300 aircraft to its order book, bringing the total number of A220s in the airline’s fleet and on order to 100. The aircraft’s strong economics and operational performance are a key to JetBlue’s long-term cost performance, while also enabling more sustainable flying, greater flexibility to support JetBlue’s network strategy, and the introduction of its all-new onboard experience to more customers.

“We’re already seeing benefits from the eight A220s we’ve added to the fleet, and we’re very happy to have more on the way”

“We’re already seeing benefits from the eight A220s we’ve added to the fleet, and we’re very happy to have more on the way,” said Robin Hayes, chief executive officer, JetBlue. “We’ve seen double-digit increases in customer satisfaction scores, and these fuel-efficient aircraft support our leadership in reducing carbon emissions. With 30 additional A220s on order, we’re in a position to accelerate our fleet modernization plans to deliver stronger cost performance and support our focus city network strategy.”

“It is very rewarding to see a happy customer coming back for more aircraft not even a year after entry into service of its first A220. We salute our friends at JetBlue on this landmark deal,” said Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer and Head of Airbus International. “Over 700 A220 orders to date underscore the strong market appetite for this all-new single aisle aircraft.”

In 2018, JetBlue announced its initial order of 60 A220s and the option for 60 additional aircraft. JetBlue converted 10 of 60 options to firm orders in 2019, and the 30 A220s announced today will enable acceleration of the retirement of JetBlue’s Embraer E190 fleet.

Exceptional Fuel Efficiency & Economics

The A220 offers nearly 30 percent lower direct operating costs per seat compared to the fleet it is replacing, supporting the airline’s focus on keeping costs low. Additionally, the aircraft’s range and seating capacity will add flexibility to JetBlue’s network strategy as it targets growth in its focus cities, including options for transcontinental flying and opening the door to new markets and routes not feasible with the airline’s existing fleet.

The A220 is powered exclusively by Pratt & Whitney GTF engines, which deliver double-digit improvements in fuel and carbon emissions. Optimizing fuel burn is an important first step in JetBlue’s sustainability strategy, and prioritizing fuel-efficient aircraft and engines aligns with JetBlue’s approach to reducing emissions. Earlier this year, JetBlue became the first major U.S. airline to achieve carbon neutrality for all domestic flights, and later announced its plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions across all operations by 2040.

Considerable Comfort

The A220’s spacious and comfortable cabin makes it the perfect fit for JetBlue, which has consistently led U.S. airlines in onboard experience.

The airline’s A220s are outfitted with 140 Collins Meridian seats, customized around customer feedback and featuring a number of design elements with comfort and convenience in mind. Seating is arranged in a two-by-three configuration offering multiple seating options for all party sizes and includes USB-C, USB-A and AC power at every seat. JetBlue – which offers the most legroom in coacha – maximizes the A220’s ultra-modern design to create an elevated customer experience throughout the interior.

Keeping customers connected and entertained is also on display aboard JetBlue’s A220 with Thales AVANT and ViaSat-2 connectivity. With this system, JetBlue offers every customer high-definition screens at every seat and personalized entertainment choices. Additionally, JetBlue is the only U.S. carrier with free high-speed Fly-Fi® on every plane, providing customers with the ability to connect an unlimited number of devices to stream, surf, or chat during the entire flight, from gate to gate. Fly-Fi® connectivity is available in nearly every region that JetBlue fliesb.

Every aspect of the aircraft has been meticulously customized to create the perfect environment to deliver JetBlue’s award-winning service. Customer comfort is enhanced with bigger windows for better views and a more spacious feel, reconfigured overhead bins for additional carry-on bag capacity and custom LED mood lighting designed to provide a more soothing inflight experience with lighting scenarios that change with time of day or phase of flight.

Future of the Fleet

JetBlue’s first A220 aircraft arrived in December 2020 and the airline is on track to take delivery of its ninth A220 this month. Nine more are scheduled for delivery in 2022, followed by another 21 in 2023. Ultimately, these A220s will replace the airline’s E190s, with the last E190 exiting in 2026.

JetBlue’s initial order for 60 A220 aircraft was announced in July 2018.

Quebec, Airbus pledge an extra US$1.2 billion to speed up production of A220 jet

From the Montreal Gazette 🔗 link to source story and future update

The province and the planemaker also agreed to push back the date when Airbus can buy back Quebec’s stake in the joint venture to 2030.

Frédéric Tomesco, Montreal Gazette | February 4, 2022

Employees work on an Airbus A220-300 at a facility in Mirabel. The company will consider building a larger version of the A220 once profitability has been achieved, Airbus Canada said.
Employees work on an Airbus A220-300 at a facility in Mirabel. The company will consider building a larger version of the A220 once profitability has been achieved, Airbus Canada said. PHOTO BY CHRISTINNE MUSCHI /REUTERS file photo

Airbus and Quebec said Friday they will jointly invest US$1.2 billion to expand and speed up production of the A220 narrow body jet in Mirabel. Quebec will contribute US$300 million while the European planemaker injects US$900 million, according to a statement issued Friday.

Both parties also agreed to push back the date when Airbus can buy back Quebec’s stake in the joint venture by four years, to 2030.

Quebec first invested in the jet when it was known as the Bombardier C Series. Then-premier Philippe Couillard threw Bombardier a lifeline in 2015 by authorizing Investissement Québec to plough US$1 billion into the program for a 49.5 per cent stake. Bombardier eventually handed control of the C Series to Airbus — free of charge — in 2018, diluting Quebec’s stake, before exiting the venture two years ago.

Two years ago, Legault said it was “out of the question”  for Quebec to make a further investment in the A220. He also renewed his criticism of Couillard’s 2015 decision to pump money into the program instead of buying a stake in Bombardier.

Airbus has been pushing to cut production costs of the A220 since it took control of the C Series. Profitability — now envisaged for sometime around 2025 — will come from more efficient plants and increased sales.

The company will consider building a larger version of the A220 once profitability has been achieved, Airbus Canada chief executive Benoit Schultz said in November. The biggest version of the jet seats up to 160 passengers.

This story will be updated.

New Year Prospects: Air Canada’s Fleet In 2022

From Simple Flying – link to source story

by Chris Loh | January 1, 2022

Continuing its slow recovery from the worst of the global health crisis, major Canadian airline Air Canada the growth of its fleet in 2021. Notably, this consisted of the addition of a number of Airbus A220-300s as well as several Boeing 737 MAX 8s. Let’s take a glance at where Air Canada’s fleet stands at the start of 2022.

B737_Max_8_Water-1538
It appears that Air Canada took delivery of seven Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft during the 2nd half of 2021. Photo: Air Canada

Air Canada’s fleet composition at a glance

According to data from Planespotters.net, Air Canada has the following aircraft in its fleet. The quantities are noted alongside the type, with the change from last year’s report (published June 2021) in parentheses.

Aircraft from Airbus*:
  • A220-300: 27 (+5)
  • A320-200: 17 (-1)
  • A321-200: 15 (no change)
  • A330-300: 16 (no change)

*We should note that the airline ordered the A220 when it was still known as the Bombardier CSeries.

Aircraft from Boeing:
  • 737 MAX 8: 31 (+7)
  • 767-300BCF*: 3 (+3)
  • 777-200LR: 6 (no change)
  • 777-300ER: 18 (-1)
  • 787-8: 8 (no change)
  • 787-9: 29 (no change)

*One Air Canada 767-300 has completed its conversion from passenger to freighter. The remaining two are in the process of being converted.

B777-300ER-4
It appears that one Boeing 777-300ER left the fleet. Photo: Air Canada

Growing the short and medium-haul fleet

As you can see from the changes since our last Air Canada fleet report, the carrier has gained five Airbus A220-300s and seven Boeing 737 MAX 8s.

As noted previously, there was a little bit of a back-and-forth when the carrier announced it would be canceling some of its orders in November of 2020, which would have seen orders for 12 A220s and 10 737 MAX 8s axed. However, one condition of the Canadian government’s rescue package was that it would proceed with its planned orders for both aircraft types. As a result, the airline has nine 737 MAX 8s and 18 A220-300s still on the way.

A220-300-2
The airline continues to grow its A220 and 737 numbers. Photo: Air Canada

Going big on cargo operations

One surprising standout number from our list was the “addition” of three Boeing 767-300s from last year. This change is, again, a bit of a back and forth. During the worst of the crisis, Air Canada had decided to retire its 767s.

However, cargo demand has been soaring amid increased eCommerce activity, decreased transportation capacity, and global supply chain snarls. These factors led the airline to convert its passenger 767s into full freighters, complete with a large door to handle containers on the main deck. Work was, and continues to be, done at IAI facilities in Tel Aviv.

It’s not just 767s and the bellies of passenger aircraft being used for cargo operations. At the time of this article’s publication, the carrier has four of its 16 A330-300s and seven of its 18 Boeing 777-300ERs operating as “preighters” (passenger freighters). These are passenger aircraft which have had their seats removed in order to accommodate freight. Making use of the fleet’s younger jets for reasons unknown, the airline was able to provide additional cargo capacity to Canada’s west coast, which had its main road and rail supply lines cut off from the rest of the country in November, due to extreme and extensive flooding.

Aviation Capital Group signs for 20 A220s and 40 A320neos

From AeroTime Hub – link to source story

VYTE KLISAUSKAITE | 31 DECEMBER 2021

US-based lessor Aviation Capital Group (ACG) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for 20 Airbus A220s and a firm order contract for 40 Airbus A320neo family jets, five of which are Airbus A321XLRs. 

“We are delighted to expand our portfolio with additional A220 and A320neo Family aircraft. These highly advanced aircraft will enhance ACG’s strategic objective to offer our airline customers the most modern and fuel-efficient aircraft available,” said Thomas Baker, CEO and President of ACG.  

The Airbus A320neo aircraft is a standard single-aisle jet suitable for short and medium-haul operations. The aircraft has two engine options: Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1100G-JM geared turbofan, and CFM International’s LEAP-1A. It has a maximum range of 6,400 nautical miles (11,853 kilometers) and is capable of seating up to 180 passengers.  

The Airbus A220 family aircraft, including the A220-100 and A220-300 variants, are tailored to serve the 100-150 seat market. The A220-100 has a maximum range of 6,390 kilometers and the A220-300 has 6,297 kilometers. The aircraft family has only one engine option, Pratt & Whitney’s latest-generation PW1500G geared turbofan engine. 

“It also forcefully confirms the A220 as a growingly desirable aircraft and investment in the commercial aviation landscape. We congratulate and thank ACG for its decision to select both the A220 and A320neo Families,” said Christian Scherer, Chief Commercial Officer and Head of Airbus International. 

Criticizing aviation is not the solution to climate change, Airbus Canada CEO says at Montreal event

The Canadian Press Staff | Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Airbus

Airbus is aiming to put the world’s first hydrogen-powered commercial plane into service by 2035, the European aircraft maker’s boss said. (AFP)

MONTREAL — Stigmatizing the aviation sector won’t lead to constructive solutions to reducing greenhouse gases, said the president and CEO of Airbus Canada at an event in Montreal Tuesday, as he came to his industry’s defence.

 “Aviation bashing does not allow for constructive strategies,” Benoît Schultz said in an address to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations (CORIM).

The sector employs 160 million workers worldwide, while accounting for “2 to 3 per cent” of global CO2 emissions, the executive said.

The environmental footprint of aviation is an increasingly discussed topic. While the sector’s emissions remain modest on a global scale, the number of air travellers remains small. When you look at the environmental impact of a single person, an airplane flight becomes more significant.

A round trip from Montreal to Paris will produce 1.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to the calculation tool Planetair, a non-profit carbon credit organization. The average Quebecer emits about 10 tonnes of carbon per year.

Airbus is ‘proactive’ in reducing its aircraft emissions, Schultz said.

“In the last 25 years, we have reduced our aircraft emissions by about 80 per cent in terms of CO2 and 90 per cent in terms of nitrogen oxide compared to early generation aircraft,” he said.

Schultz reiterated the French multinational’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2035.

– This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Nov. 23, 2021.

Lufthansa Weighs Airbus A220 Order to Boost Regional Jet Fleet

From BNN Bloomberg – link to source story

William Wilkes, Siddharth Philip and Charlotte Ryan, Bloomberg News

A new Airbus A220 single-aisle aircraft comes in to land in Toulouse, France, on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. Airbus renamed the C Series jet acquired from Bombardier Inc. the A220 and set a target of at least 100 orders for the aircraft this year.

A new Airbus A220 single-aisle aircraft comes in to land in Toulouse, France, on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. Airbus renamed the C Series jet acquired from Bombardier Inc. the A220 and set a target of at least 100 orders for the aircraft this year. , Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — Deutsche Lufthansa AG is considering buying more Airbus SE A220 jets to boost profitability on regional routes as European air travel recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, according to people familiar with the matter.

The German airline group is looking to simplify a regional fleet made up of several different models across its subsidiary brands, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are ongoing. A shift toward the lightweight A220 could help Lufthansa hold down spending on fuel, maintenance and training, they said.

Speaking after Lufthansa reported third quarter results, Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr said the airline had sent proposal requests to regional jet manufacturers, the first stage in a potential aircraft acquisition.

There’s been no final decision, and it’s possible Lufthansa will go with a different manufacturer. Other models, including from Embraer SA, are among the possible choices, Spohr said on the call.

Spohr didn’t say how many planes are being considered. Lufthansa’s Swiss arm was a launch customer for the A220. It operates 21 A220-300s and 9 A220-100s. 

Airbus had no immediate comment.

All Airbus: Air Canada Rouge Goes Full Narrowbody

From Simply Flying – link to source story – Thanks CW

by James Pearson | September 20, 2021

Air Canada Rouge, the lower-cost subsidiary and leisure airline of the Canadian flag carrier, took to the skies again in September. With the B767-300ER gone, its 39-strong fleet is now exclusively Airbus. They’re used on 60 routes until the end of the year as it rebuilds its network.

C-FJOK_Air_Canada_Rouge_Airbus_A321-211
The A321 is crucial to Air Canada Rouge, with this example delivered directly to the carrier in 2015. Photo: Liam Allport via Flickr.

Air Canada Rouge has resumed flying

Air Canada Rouge relaunched with an initial three routes from Toronto: Las Vegas, Orlando, and Regina, in the distant province of Saskatchewan. These were joined by Toronto to Cancun and Tampa a few days later, with all five routes using 200-seat A321ceos.

These were its first flights since February, with the seven-month grounding due to Canada’s non-essential travel ban and the suspension of all flights to the Caribbean and Mexico – two of its essential markets – at the request of the Canadian government. Rouge’s resumption coincided with Canada reopening its borders on September 7th to fully vaccinated foreigners.

Air Canada Rouge A321
Most international routes are by the A321 with stronger economics than the A319/A320. Remember, it is a lower-cost airline, i.e. about the cost of production rather than fares. Photo: Air Canada.

Now exclusively Airbus

Rouge’s fleet is now entirely narrowbody, ch-aviation.com shows, with 20 A319s, 14 A321s, and just five A320s. This follows the retirement of its B767-300ERs, of which it had 25 at one point.

Its 767s were, of course, mainly used long-haul, including across Europe and South America, and the type’s routes had an average of 2,378 miles, OAG indicates. At 5,063 miles, Toronto-Athens was its longest-ever 767 route, but Toronto to Las Vegas had the most flights.

Air Canada Rouge A319
Air Canada Rouge has 20 A319s, with an average age of 23.5 years. Photo: Air Canada.

Currently, five aircraft are active

According to Planespotters.net and confirmed by Flightradar24, only five of its 39-strong fleet – some 13% – is currently active, all A321s. Its A321 fleet has an average age of just 6.1 years, far younger than its A319s (23.5 years; to be retired) and A320s (14.2 years). The younger A321s were delivered directly to Air Canada Rouge.

No widebodies go hand-in-hand with Rouge previously saying that it’ll concentrate on routes within narrowbody range. Air Canada will instead operate suitably good-performing long-haul routes – many have already switched – in a rejigging of networks and focusing on relative strengths.

One of many examples is Toronto to Edinburgh, which was by Rouge’s 767s and from 2022 will instead be by its parent’s Boeing 737 MAX 8s from June 1st. It’ll compete directly with WestJet. Another: Toronto to Bogota, in Rouge’s hands from 2016, is now by Air Canada’s B787s and A330-300s.

Air Canada Rouge
Air Canada Rouge had up to 25 B767-300ERs. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr.

What’s the plan to the end of the year?

Between September 20th and December 31st, Rouge has scheduled 60 routes. Thirty-nine of these are to/from Toronto, with most of the rest from Montreal. With over 2,700 outbound flights planned, the domestic market has almost four in ten departures, comprising eight routes from Toronto.

Air Canada Rouge's network Sept 1st to Dec 31st
This is Air Canada Rouge’s network between September 20th and December 31st. Image: OAG Mapper.

Toronto to Québec City has the most flights

Some 13 international countries will welcome Rouge’s flights, with the US the most-served, followed by Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and the Cayman Islands. Toronto to Miami has the most international flights, as shown below, although the 456-mile domestic link from Toronto to Québec City (YQB) is the most-served, with 28 weekly departures from November.

  1. Toronto-Québec City
  2. Toronto-Moncton
  3. Toronto-Thunder Bay
  4. Toronto-Miami
  5. Toronto-Las Vegas
  6. Toronto-Tampa
  7. Toronto-Fort Myers
  8. Toronto-Fredericton
  9. Montreal-Orlando
  10. Montreal-Miami

How A220 programme proved sound investment for Airbus amid pandemic

From Flight Global – link to source story

By David Kaminski-Morrow | 22 July 2021

One curious effect of the air transport crisis is that it has effectively pushed the sector back in time, leaving a fleet technologically shaped to address the 2020s facing levels of demand from the turn of the millennium.

“This industry, in a matter of a year, has lost something like 15 – if not more – years of growth,” says Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer.

A220-300 A321LR
Source: S Ramadier/Airbus

Airbus says successful A220 complements A320neo family

Activity level might be back to that which existed when the Airbus A318 was entering service and the A319 was reaching peak deliveries. But Scherer believes the airframer’s ability to pitch the 100- and 130-seat sectors with the A220 – an aircraft which was still an unlaunched Bombardier concept, the CSeries, at the time – will prove an advantage during the recovery of the single-aisle market.

“We had a very timid attempt in the past with the A318 in this category,” says Scherer. “But we now have a family of products with A220-100 and -300 that clearly addresses the upper regional segment where Airbus wasn’t really present before.”

Neither the A318 nor rival Boeing’s answer, the 737-600, sold more than 70-80 aircraft and the lower end of the single-aisle battleground has since become even tougher.

When Airbus opted to re-engine its popular A319, it believed the updated aircraft would continue its predecessor’s run of success while consigning the CSeries, then a prospective competitor, to the status of also-ran.

But while the A319 and the 737-700 each managed to secure close to 1,500 orders, neither of their re-engined counterparts – the A319neo and 737 Max 7 – has been able to replicate these figures. The CSeries, however, took over 400 orders under Bombardier and Airbus has added another 337 gross orders in the three years since acquiring the programme, now the A220, in mid-2018.

CRISIS MANAGED

Scherer believes the A220 hands Airbus an advantage in the current circumstances. While Airbus cut production rates of other aircraft in its portfolio, he points out, there was no such reduction for the A220 – the airframer only “adapted slightly downward the positive slope” for the type’s ramp-up.

Airbus vice-president of programmes Philippe Mhun says the A220 was the “most active fleet in its segment during the crisis”, claiming that a minimum 50% of delivered aircraft were still being operated at the lowest point, before the figure “very quickly” recovered to higher levels.

Carriers such as Air Canada, Delta Air Lines and Swiss were operating almost all their A220s by June, while keeping substantial numbers of A320-family jets parked.

The airframer plans to increase combined monthly A220 output from its Montreal Mirabel and Mobile, Alabama assembly lines from five to six aircraft in early 2022, and its aim is for 14 by around mid-decade.

“Our order book is pretty full, we have no issue in terms of open slots,” says Mhun.

Although longer-range single-aisle aircraft have been able to encroach on routes traditionally plied by twin-aisle types, the use of smaller aircraft on such routes carries a potential comfort penalty, requiring carriers to adapt single-aisle types to feature interior configurations suitable for longer-duration flights.

Radical interior reconfiguration is less of a consideration at the regional end of the scale, but Airbus believes the basic A220 already provides advantages by offering a tailored five-abreast aircraft rather than further stretches of narrow four-abreast regional jets or inefficient shrinks of larger six-abreast models.

“It’s absolutely the reference in cabin comfort,” says Scherer.

He believes that, although the A220 has “marginally higher” trip costs than its “direct competitor”, by virtue of being 20-30 seats larger, customers will favour the range advantage and increased revenue generation potential.

“It clearly commands a value premium in the market,” he says.

But it also shifts the competitive arena, pitching Airbus more directly against Embraer at a point where the Brazilian airframer remains without a strong partner after its proposed tie-up with Boeing suddenly collapsed last year.

THINKING BIG

Over the last three years – a period in which the Embraer E195-E2 and E190-E2 have entered service – the A220’s net orders, under Airbus, have risen by over 60%, while its backlog has increased by a third to nearly 500 aircraft. Customers have strongly backed the larger -300 over the -100, and a similar pattern has emerged at Embraer, where the E195-E2 has sold better than the E190-E2. Embraer’s E2 backlog stood at 139 at the end of March.

A220 JetBlue
Source: Airbus

JetBlue says the A220 has 30% better cost-efficiency per seat than the E190

New customer JetBlue Airways is taking the A220 to replace its older E190s. Chief financial officer Steve Priest says the carrier is “particularly excited about the outstanding economics”, giving a figure of 30% better cost-efficiency per seat over the regional jet.

“We believe this fleet will be pivotal to helping us reshape our cost structure and growing our margins,” he adds.

Lufthansa Group carrier Swiss was the launch operator of the A220 during its period as the CSeries, and has built a fleet of 30 including both the -100 and -300 variants. The aircraft has the range to integrate smoothly with its A320 fleet, offering economical capacity options.

“We use our A220 and A320-family aircraft very flexibly on the entire short-haul network, according to demand, with very few exceptions for operational reasons,” the carrier states, pointing out that the A220 is necessary for Swiss to access specific airports such as London City and Florence.

Scherer claims Chinese interest in the A220 from operators in regions “outside of the mainstream” routes, while the type has attracted interest from executive and premium operators interested in exploiting the long-range potential of low-density cabins.

Although Airbus has been enhancing the performance of the A220, with hikes in maximum take-off weight, it views the A220 and A320 families as separate products. Scherer says the lack of full commonality between the two types has “not proven to be a major handicap” and points out that there is “no such commonality” between upper-size regional jets and mid-size single-aisle aircraft.

“There are no plans to revamp or change the value proposition of the A220 or A320 to construct a common cockpit,” he says. “That’s not to say they won’t converge over time, but there are no hard plans.”