Air Canada’s Fleet In 2021

From Simple Flying – link to source story

As Canada’s largest airline, Air Canada has a diverse fleet based across its four hub airports. The network airline has a mix of both widebody and narrowbody aircraft coming from both Airbus and Boeing. The carrier has gone through some changes in the past few years, with more significant upheaval taking place during the global health crisis. Let’s take a look at Air Canada’s fleet as it stands in 2021.

The Boeing 787 is Air Canada’s flagship aircraft. Photo: Air Canada

Air Canada’s fleet composition

According to data from Planespotters.net, Air Canada has the following aircraft in its fleet. The quantities are noted in parentheses.

Aircraft from Airbus*:
  • A220-300 (22)
  • A320 (18)
  • A321 (15)
  • A330-300 (16)

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

Aircraft from Boeing:
  • 737 MAX 8 (24)
  • 777-200LR (6)
  • 777-300ER (19)
  • 787-8 (8)
  • 787-9 (29)
The average age of Air Canada’s A330-300s is 16 years. Photo: Air Canada

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Outside of regular passenger service

There are aircraft within the Air Canada fleet that are outside of the airline’s passenger operations.

Notably, we have the airline’s private/charter subbrand, Air Canada Jetz. This sub-group consists of four Airbus A319s. This fleet traditionally consisted of three A319s, but it appears a fourth was added in December 2020.

Used to transport touring musicians, sports teams, or private groups, these aircraft have an all-business configuration of 58 seats. With the exception of a short pandemic run, these aircraft tend to stay out of Air Canada’s regular passenger operations.

The Jetz jets flew an all-business-class service during the Winter of 2020 but are typically reserved for special charter operations. Photo: Ken Fielding via Wikimedia Commons 

As we will mention further in this article, Air Canada retired its 767s at the start of the health crisis. However, some of these are slated for a full conversion to freighters. The airline says that two freighters are expected to be in service in time for this year’s fourth-quarter peak airfreight season.

With seven 767s on the list for conversion, it looks like the remaining five will be converted next year, in 2022. This was confirmed by the carrier’s current Chief Financial Officer and future Chief Executive during the earnings call in which Simple Flying attended:

“We’d love to have all seven up and operating by the end of next year. These are typically little bit of a longer process and slots are not really available, but we are certainly working on having all seven up and running by Q4 of next year.” – Michael Rousseau, Chief Executive Officer, Air Canada

Coming and going

On the outgoing side of things, it was in May 2020 that Air Canada announced the early retirement of 79 aircraft. 

Retirements included five 767-300ERs, 16 A319s, and 14 E190s in the mainline fleet. Another 25 767-300ERs and 22 A319s that made up Air Canada Rouge were also retired.

Air Canada took delivery of its first A220 back in January 2020. Photo: Air Canada

Looking at future aircraft, Air Canada has a decent number of Boeing 737 MAX 8s and Airbus A220-300s yet to be delivered. There was a little bit of a back-and-forth when the carrier announced it would be canceling some of its orders last November. The plan would have seen the airline cancel orders for 12 A220s and 10 737 MAX 8s.

However, one condition of the carrier’s government rescue package was that it would proceed with its planned orders for both aircraft types. As it stands, 16 737 MAX 8s and 23 A220-300s are still on the way.

As you can see from the list of aircraft, Air Canada has a fairly diverse fleet- which is quite typical of a large network carrier that operates both short-haul and intercontinental service.

Take a look at the new A220 full size cabin display from Airbus…..

From Air101 – link to source story and video

28 May 2021 | Written by Jason Shaw 

One United Family

This week, the Airspace Customer Showroom (ACS) situated in Toulouse, France unveiled its latest A220 full size mock-up, showcasing Airbus’ cabin expertise inside this unique customer showroom.

“Today marks an important development in the ongoing career of the A220 as a member of the Airbus family, all together in the Airspace Customer Showroom. We are looking forward to showing the A220 mockup to our customers who are already extremely enthusiastic to visit,” said Christine de Gagné, Airline Marketing

Link to Airbus Video

Moving forward

Seven years after its maiden flight, the first flight test vehicle “FTV1” has been rehabilitated by Airbus teams to become part of an iconic showcase; celebrating the successes of the A220 as part of the family.  “FTV1” was the very first aircraft assembled in Mirabel between 2012-2013 and released into service after some 760 flight hours on the clock, opening another historic chapter for this aircraft.

The layout of the mock-up

The interior layout of the A220 cabin was an exciting challenge for the Airbus teams to make it alluring for customers. “In a ground mock-up, the cabin interior must be adaptive and versatile. We need to think about the cabin configuration features, such as light and ambience, enabling customers to experiment with different inspiring scenarios for passengers” explains Christine. 

The mock-up will also be of great importance to both customers who have already selected the A220 and for Airbus teams dedicated to customizing the cabin. Airlines who are in the final configuration phase of their aircraft, will be able to test their lighting and seat selection in the mock-up before the delivery of their aircraft.

Ready to welcome customers

Fully operational, the A220 mock-up will be able to benefit from the expertise of the Airspace Customer Showroom to support the airline’s needs. Every year, the facility  hosts around 1000 visits – an average of 250 meetings with airlines, providing a powerful tool to assist customers, accelerate decision-making and demonstrate cabin innovations offered by the A220 within the Airbus family.

Airbus welcomes first ACJ TwoTwenty section in Mirabel / Canada

Mirabel, 17 May 2021 – The first section of the recently launched ACJ TwoTwenty has arrived at the A220 Final Assembly Line (FAL) in Mirabel, Canada, in line with the planning. This mid-fuselage section arrival marks the start of the first Airbus corporate jet ever assembled in Canada. 

The ACJ TwoTwenty is the combination of a signature flexible cabin catalogue outfitted into a modern, reliable and cost efficient A220-100, designed for state-of-the-art business aviation jet operations.

The ACJ TwoTwenty comes with renowned ACJ DNA: ultimate comfort, intercontinental range, unbeatable economics with unmatched operational availability.

The ACJ TwoTwenty was launched in late 2020 and has already won orders for six aircraft. Comlux will be the first to take delivery of the ACJ TwoTwenty this winter and will be the exclusive outfitter for the first 15 aircraft.

The ACJ TwoTwenty will feature unmatched personal space with 73m2/785 ft2 of floorspace, and is the only business jet featuring six wide VIP living areas for up to 19 passengers. The ACJ TwoTwenty will have intercontinental range, capable of flying up to 5,650 nm/10,500 km (over 12 flight hours) and is at a price tag just under the Ultra Long Range bizjet price.

More than 200 Airbus corporate jets are in service on every continent, including Antarctica, highlighting their operational versatility, including in challenging environments. 

Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ) offers the most modern and comprehensive corporate jet family in the world, giving customers the greatest choice of unique, customisable and spacious cabins, allowing them to select the comfort they want in the size they need – offering them a unique flying experience.

AIRBALTIC’S 26TH A220-300 JET

From Travel Radar – link to source story

By Claudia Mok  | May 12, 2021

First out of seven of their planned deliveries, AirBaltic welcomed its 26th airbus A220-300 jet, registered as YL-AAZ in Riga on 2 May – with an aim to acquire a total of 32 by the end of 2021.

This comes after they publicised their plan to expand their fleet. Since May last year, AB has operated all its flights with a single aircraft type, that is the A220-300, an air bus that is becoming AB’s unique selling proposition.

AirBaltic YL-AAZ side profile from right

[AirBaltic’s YL-AAZ Side Profile] |© [AirBaltic]

AirBaltic's YL-AAZ wing from left

[AirBaltic YL-AAZ Wing] |© [AirBaltic]

Best of Both Worlds

Founded 28 August 1995, AirBaltic (AB) has worked hard at finding a gap in the market for its airline. They not only work as a hybrid airline by combining practices from traditional network airlines and low-cost carriers, but also one that aims to become Europe’s most sustainable carrier. The Airbus A220-300 gives them that opportunity.

Saving whilst Sustaining

The A220-300 is the greenest commercial aircraft available. Its advanced aerodynamics combined with specially designed Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW15OOG geared turbofan engines contribute to an aircraft that delivers 25% lower fuel burn than previous generation aircraft – in turn helping reduce not only the Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen Oxide emissions by 20% and 50% respectively, but also operational costs.

The previous generation model infers the A220-100 which burns 21,805 litres of fuel compared to the A220-300 which burns 300 litres less, that is 21,508 litres of fuel. The former also has a smaller capacity holding 135 passengers compared to the latter which holds 160.

AB’s fleet used to include Boeing 737-300 and 737-500 and Bombardier aircrafts DHQ400 and Dash 8 Q400 (now known as De Havilland Canada DHC-8-400) yet with a change to their business proposition, they started to phase each of them out, reporting that they began to reduce the number of Boeing 737s in 2019 to end in 2020, an aircraft that burns approximately 5,000 pounds of fuel per hour, compared to the A220 that averages 3,500 pounds per hour.

A single aircraft fleet not only makes Latvia’s flagship carrier unique, savvy and sustainable but it also plays into the growing concerns of key stakeholders and the public at large in relation to climate change.

AirBaltic's Sustainability report 2019 - key points

[AirBaltic’s Sustainability report 2019] | © [AirBaltic]

They have also worked at reducing household and mixed packaging waste (cardboard, paper, plastic) by reducing the use of them  – including opting for electronic document use and iPads for pilots.

AirBaltic's Sustainability report 2019 - household and packaging waste

[AirBaltic’s Sustainability report 2019] |© [AirBaltic]

Delta, another eco-friendly airline is also in pursuit of the A220 dream. Since the pandemic started, they have resorted to reducing the Boeing 717 models and have also placed an order for a batch of A220 models (45 A220-100s and 50 A220-300s) for 2021, suggesting that the A220 paves the way for fuel and cost efficiency.

Airbus appoints supply chain executive to run its Canadian operation, trim losses on A220

From The Globe and Mail – link to source story

TIM HEPHER, REUTERS, | MAY 10, 2021

An employee works on an Airbus A220-300 at the Airbus facility in Mirabel, Que. on Feb. 20, 2020. CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/REUTERS

Airbus has appointed a senior internal supply chain executive to run its Canadian operation, with responsibility for trimming losses on the A220 jetliner series, in the latest in a series of management changes at the European aerospace group.

Benoit Schultz, 48, will take over on Sept. 1 from Philippe Balducchi, a former finance executive who became the first head of the Canadian venture when Airbus bought the CSeries jet program from Bombardier in 2018 and renamed it A220.

Schultz, who was part of the team that ran a ruler over Bombardier’s supplier relationships when Airbus rescued it from cash shortages, is currently a senior vice president in the Airbus procurement office, which runs its global supply chain.

He steps up as Balducchi plans to “pursue opportunities” outside the group after integrating the former Bombardier plants into Airbus and opening a new U.S. assembly line, Airbus said.

The Canadian-designed A220, with 110-130 seats and a modern lightweight design, has seen a boost in sales under Airbus after its development took a heavy financial toll that triggered Bombardier’s near-total exit from the aerospace market.

It has notched up more net orders so far this year than any other Airbus model as airlines seek to reduce fuel costs and favour smaller aircraft in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

But while sales have benefited from the stronger Airbus marketing machine, industry sources say the European group has yet to secure low enough prices for many of the plane’s components to push the A220 project convincingly into the black.

That creates a growing dilemma for Airbus as although new sales are good for the order book, producing those extra planes at costs that remain too high could simply deepen the losses.

Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury has been seeking cuts of 20% in the cost of major components, industry sources say.

One source said Airbus had obtained solid cuts from dominant suppliers Raytheon Technologies – which makes engines and avionics – and wingmaker Spirit Aero Systems but was still struggling to make a significant dent in most other costs.

Airbus could further reduce costs by redesigning parts and overhauling the production system for the A220, which competes with Embraer regional jets and smaller Boeing 737s, but such spending is seen unlikely during the pandemic.

Airbus had no immediate comment on cost-cutting efforts.

Air Canada Eyes The A321LR As More A220s Set To Be Delivered

From Simple Flying – link to source story

by Jake Hardiman | May 7, 2021

While Air Canada does fly the Boeing 737 MAX series, most of its narrowbody aircraft belong to Airbus families. These include the five-abreast A220 series, of which the airline is set to receive a further 15 examples by the end of 2022. Interestingly, the Canadian flag carrier has also revealed an interest in Airbus’s long-range A321LR model.

Air Canada Airbus A220
The A220 has become popular among Air Canada’s passengers. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Four A220s delivered in Q1

Air Canada announced today at its first-quarter earnings call that it has continued its short-haul fleet modernization despite the industry’s present challenges. The Airbus A220 is leading the way in this regeneration, with Air Canada favoring the A220-300 variant.

This next-generation narrowbody has won favor among both employees and passengers for its enhanced efficiency and comfort levels. According to Planespotters.net, Air Canada presently has 19 137-seat A220-300s in its fleet, of which 17 are active. Of these, more than 20% arrived in Q1 of 2021. Indeed, the airline confirmed on the aforementioned call that “we took delivery of four Airbus A220 aircraft in the first quarter.”

Air Canada TCA A220 Retrojet
C-GNBN sports a stunning retro TCA livery. Photo: Air Canada

These four first-quarter arrivals came in the form of the following aircraft.

Next 15 deliveries also secured

The introduction of the A220 has played a significant role in the regeneration of Air Canada’s short-haul fleet. The type will replace its remaining A319s, which have an average age of 24 years. Amid the pandemic, it has not been unusual to see carriers defer orders. However, regarding its remaining A220s, the airline confirmed that:Advertisement:

“In March 2021, Air Canada concluded a committed secured facility totaling US$475 million to finance the purchase of the next 15 Airbus A220 aircraft scheduled for delivery in 2021 and 2022.”

Air Canada A220
Air Canada will receive its remaining A220s by the end of 2022. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Potentially a place for the A321LR as well

In the longer term, Air Canada will be hoping that it can resume its longer-haul services to transatlantic destinations such as the UK and mainland Europe. However, ongoing uncertainty remains regarding different countries’ restrictions and vaccination rates.

As such, it may not see the demand levels that it had become accustomed to before coronavirus. With this in mind, the airline is open to trying new aircraft types in order to adapt to market fluctuations. For example, it stated that:Advertisement:

We’ve done a pretty good job covering ourselves for growth beyond our expectations, but certainly also for even further fine tuning. (…) That gives us the opportunity to then potentially step into new types of aircraft. Like the A321LRs, for example, that we like, and that certainly have a potential place in Air Canada’s fleet as we go forward.

Air Transat Airbus A321
Air Transat operates both first-generation (pictured) and ‘neo’ variants of the A321, including the latter’s ‘LR’ version. Will Air Canada follow suit in this respect?  Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Of course, the carrier would not be the first Canadian airline to deploy this long-range version of the Airbus A321neo series. Indeed, Air Transat, whose merger with Air Canada was recently canceled, has operated the type since 2019. Last October, Air Transat even set the record for the world’s longest flight using the aircraft.

This saw it fly non-stop from Montréal, Canada to Athens, Greece. This represented an impressive distance of 7,600 km (4,100 NM), although it has since been beaten by Azores Airlines. Nonetheless, with the aircraft being an ideal fit for ‘long thin’ transatlantic markets, Air Canada’s interest is understandable. 

Details of Financial Support to Air Canada

From: Department of Finance Canada | 12 April 2021

Backgrounder

The government’s financial support to Air Canada is being provided under the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF). The Canada Enterprise Emergency Funding Corporation (CEEFC) has committed to provide $4 billion in repayable loans and an equity investment in Air Canada of $500 million in newly-issued Class B Voting Shares at a 15 per cent discount to their recent trading price. CEEFC will also receive warrants on Air Canada stock in an amount equal to 10 per cent of the loan commitments (CEEFC’s news release contains detailed information regarding the warrants).

As a condition of its agreement with CEEFC, Air Canada has made a number of commitments as outlined below.

Refunds for Canadians

The agreement with Air Canada ensures that customers who had their flights cancelled, or took action to cancel a flight because of the pandemic, are not financially disadvantaged. Under the terms of the financing agreement, Air Canada has committed to offer refunds to any passenger who wants a refund for certain pandemic-related cancelations by the carrier that CEEFC will finance. Air Canada has committed to providing customers with their refunds as soon as possible – beginning April 30, 2021 at the latest. CEEFC will provide additional loan financing of up to $1.4 billion for Air Canada to provide these refunds. Travel agents may assist in the processing of refunds for tickets the travel agents sold but will not be required to refund their commission to Air Canada.

Protecting Jobs

As a condition of the agreement with CEEFC, Air Canada has committed to maintain jobs at current levels, to respect collective bargaining agreements, and protect workers’ pensions. Air Canada currently has 14,859 active Canadian employees.

As required more generally under LEEFF, Air Canada has also agreed to restrictions on dividends, buying back shares, and executive compensation. The company will also provide climate-related financial disclosures, including how its future operations will support environmental sustainability and national climate goals.

Restarting Vital Domestic Air Services

The terms of the financial support will ensure that Canadians and communities retain air connections to the rest of Canada, through the restart of service at airports temporarily suspended by Air Canada. For seven airports where Air Canada had permanently canceled service, the airline will seek interline agreements with other carriers with a view to ensure those Canadians continue to have convenient access to their preferred airports and the flights they need.

Service will resume by no later than June 1, 2021, at the following suspended airports based on public health advice:

  • Bathurst
  • Comox
  • Fredericton
  • Gander
  • Goose Bay
  • Kamloops
  • North Bay
  • Penticton
  • Prince Rupert
  • Saint John
  • Sandspit
  • Sydney
  • Yellowknife

Supporting Jobs in Canada’s Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry supported 235,000 Canadian jobs and contributed over $28 billion in gross domestic product to the Canadian economy in 2019.

This financing agreement will allow Air Canada to continue to be a vital customer of the Canadian aerospace industry by completing its planned purchase of aircraft as set out in its business plan, which includes aircraft built in Canada, such as the Airbus A220. Aerospace is one of the most innovative and export-driven industries in Canada. The negative impact of the pandemic on the bottom line of airlines has put the relationship between airlines and the aerospace industry at risk, threatening job security in the sector. Ensuring that Air Canada maintains its status as a key customer of Canada’s aerospace industry is important to ensuring the long term success of the sector and the thousands of jobs it supports.

Air Canada and Government of Canada Conclude Agreements on Liquidity Program

Air Canada A220-300 C-GROV
Air Canada Airbus 220-300 C-GROV
  • Financial package makes available repayable loans and equity

MONTREAL, April 12, 2021 /CNW/ – Air Canada announced today that it has entered into a series of debt and equity financing agreements with the Government of Canada, which will allow Air Canada to access up to $5.879 billion in liquidity through the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) program.

“Air Canada entered the pandemic more than a year ago with one of the global airline industry’s strongest balance sheets relative to its size. We have since raised an additional $6.8 billion in liquidity from our own resources to sustain us through the pandemic, as air traffic ground to a virtual halt in Canada and internationally,” said Michael Rousseau, President and Chief Executive Officer of Air Canada. 

“The additional liquidity program we are announcing today achieves several aligned objectives as it provides a significant layer of insurance for Air Canada, it enables us to better resolve customer refunds of non-refundable tickets, maintain our workforce and re-enter regional markets. Most importantly, this program provides additional liquidity, if required, to rebuild our business to the benefit of all stakeholders and to remain a significant contributor to the Canadian economy through its recovery and for the long term.

“As vaccine deployments ramp up, we continue to work with the Government of Canada on the evolution of safe and science-based test and quarantine relief measures with a view to safely restarting our sector. We know that Canadians are looking forward to re-connecting with friends and family and taking those long-awaited vacations and business trips and we will be ready to safely connect Canadians within Canada and Canada to the world,” said Mr. Rousseau.

The financial package provides for fully repayable loans that Air Canada would only draw down as required, as well as an equity investment, and is comprised of:

  • Gross proceeds of $500 million for Air Canada shares at a price of $23.1793 per share;
  • $1.5 billion in the form of a secured revolving credit facility at a 1.5% premium to the Canadian Dollar Offered Rate (CDOR); the facility is secured on a first lien basis by the assets of Aeroplan Inc., Air Canada’s shares in Aeroplan as well as certain assets of Air Canada, including certain intellectual property relating to the Aeroplan loyalty program;
  • $2.475 billion in the form of three unsecured non-revolving credit facilities of $825 million each with: the first, five-year tranche at a 1.75% premium to CDOR per annum; the second, six-year tranche at 6.5% per annum (increasing to 7.5% after 5 years); and the third, seven-year tranche at 8.5% per annum (increasing to 9.5% after 5 years);
  • As part of the financial package, Air Canada issued an aggregate of 14,576,564 warrants exercisable for the purchase of an equal number of Air Canada shares, subject to customary adjustments, at a price of $27.2698 per share during a 10-year term, representing 10% of the total commitment available under the above secured and unsecured credit facilities; 50% of the warrants vested concurrently with the implementation of the credit facilities and the remaining 50% of the warrants will vest on a proportional basis to the amounts that Air Canada may draw under the above unsecured credit facilities;
  • Up to approximately $1.4 billion in the form of an unsecured credit facility tranche to support customer refunds of non-refundable tickets. The facility will have a seven-year term and carry an annual interest rate of 1.211%.

As part of the financial package, Air Canada has agreed to a number of commitments related to customer refunds, service to regional communities, restrictions on the use of the funds provided, employment and capital expenditures. These include:

  • Beginning April 13, 2021, offering eligible customers who purchased non-refundable fares but did not travel due to COVID-19 since February 2020, the option of a refund to the original form of payment. In support of its travel agency partners, Air Canada will not retract agency sales commissions on refunded fares;
  • The resumption of service or access to Air Canada’s network for nearly all regional communities where service was suspended because of COVID-19’s impact on travel, through direct services or new interline agreements with third party regional carriers;
  • Restricting certain expenditures, and restricting dividends, share buybacks and senior executive compensation;
  • Obligations to maintain employment at levels which are no lower than those at April 1, 2021; and
  • The completion of the airline’s acquisition of 33 Airbus A220 aircraft, manufactured at Airbus’ Mirabel, Quebec facility. Air Canada has also agreed to complete its existing firm order of 40 Boeing 737 Max aircraft. Completion of these orders remains subject to the terms and conditions of the applicable purchase agreements.

In connection with the Government’s equity investment, Air Canada has agreed to provide customary registration rights. The Air Canada shares and warrants issued to the Government are subject to certain transfer restrictions as well as an exercise cap which limits the Government’s aggregate voting rights from the shares acquired pursuant to this investment (including upon any exercise of the warrants) to 19.99%.

About Air Canada
Air Canada is Canada’s largest domestic and international airline, and in 2020 was among the top 20 largest airlines in the world. It is Canada’s flag carrier and a founding member of Star Alliance, the world’s most comprehensive air transportation network. Air Canada is the only international network carrier in North America to receive a Four-Star ranking according to independent U.K. research firm Skytrax. In 2020, Air Canada was named Global Traveler’s Best Airline in North America received for second straight year. In January 2021, Air Canada received APEX’s Diamond Status Certification for its CleanCare+ biosafety program for managing COVID-19, the only airline in Canada to attain the highest APEX ranking.

FAA to require A220 wing-to-body fairing inspections

By Jon Hemmerdinger | 31 March 2021

US regulators are following Canada’s lead by proposing that Airbus A220 operators be required to inspect the type for potential cracks in wing-to-body fairing components.

The Federal Aviation Administration has addressed the concern with a proposed airworthiness directive (AD) made public on 31 March.

The proposal responds to “a report of cracking in the longeron, frame and tie-rod on [the] left and right sides of the aft [wing-to-body fairing] structure”, it says.

Delta Air Lines Airbus A220-100
Source: Airbus

The issue occurs “near the tie-rod attachment at fuselage section 973” and likely results from “excessive tie-rod preload”, it adds.

Airbus has already issued a service bulletin addressing the concern.

The FAA says the issue could affect both A220-100s and A220-300s. The cracks threaten the “integrity” of the wing-to-body fairing and could lead to “parts departing the airline, loss of radio altimeter and effects on airplane stability and performance”, the FAA says.

The proposal would require US airlines to complete inspections and potential repairs as described in an AD issued by Transport Canada in October 2020.

Canada’s order requires airlines to complete steps laid out Airbus’ service bulletin and an update to its A220 maintenance publication.

Those steps include adjusting “the load on certain tie-rods”, and repeat inspections.

US carriers Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways operate A220s.

The A220-300’s growing popularity

From Air Insight – link to source story

by Addison Schonland | Mar 24, 2021

Yesterday Airbus shared that the A220-300 has an increase in range from its current 3,350NM to 3,550NM.  The former C Series continues to over-deliver just as Bombardier promised it would. This range bump is exclusive to the -300.

Looking at key operators of this aircraft, what could this range bump mean?  A 200-mile range bump actually impacts far more than it first appears.

Air Canada, Delta, JetBlue – These airlines are likely to exploit the A223’s new capabilities by increasing the markets it can serve. All three airlines are using the A320 now and the A223 complements these operations. What might have been marginal routes are now feasible.   The A320ceo and A320neo are at 3,300 NM, so the A223 now has longer legs.  Air Canada has several markets that will exploit the A223’s capabilities – YHZ-LHR among them.  Delta will also benefit from the A223’s extra range and capacity.  The same applies to JetBlue which could open new markets, where the E-190 is too small and the A320 is too large. Moreover, JetBlue could operate in markets like BOS-DUB with the A223. JetBlue’s trans-Atlantic ambitions are well known.

Breeze – David Neeleman said he plans to use the A223 for Hawaii service – and this was before this range bump.  Starting with the ex-AZUL E-190s, Breeze is likely to upset the US domestic market.  Once its A223s come online, Breeze will be able to further disrupt the market.  The combination of E-190s and A223s provides Breeze with the tools to cherry-pick city pairs and avoid hubs.  This is likely to be very popular as travelers now have heightened health sensitivities.

Air France – Their A318 and A319 fleets will be replaced by 60 Airbus A223s starting this year.  The selection of the A220 by Air France was important.  As a Bombardier product, this was a far less likely outcome even with the promised economics.  Another tidbit to consider at Air France actually starts with the 2010 conversations between Delta and Bombardier. Delta wanted the family to grow from just two models.  Bombardier demurred and we see how that played out.  Even so, a growth model is on the cards, the much-rumored A220-500.  And it is Air France that is the likely launch customer.  

If the -500 comes to pass we expect to see a lot of interest.  With seating at about what the A320 and MAX handle, but with more modern technologies the -500 would be a compelling replacement. For Airbus, this would be an acceptable outcome because the A320 family is already moving upmarket to several versions of the A321.  But for Boeing, not so much.  An A220-500 could attack the MAX8 head-on and probably offer significantly better economics.  Since the MAX8 is the crown jewel in the MAX range, that would be awkward for Boeing.  That alone would be sufficient reason for Airbus to move forward with a -500.  Its impact could be similar to what we have seen with the A321XLR.

The airlines named are bankable brands.  (If not Breeze, then David Neeleman for sure)  Fleet decisions made by influential brands are important because competitors pay close attention.  A competitor doesn’t want to be caught with an economically uncompetitive fleet. Fleet decisions are something that one lives with for 15+ years.

For example, the current situation at Southwest.  We understand that decision-makers are leaning towards the MAX7 – change doesn’t come easy and this is potentially a big change.  There are still hurdles. An interesting aspect of the information reported is a possible Boeing order revolves around 300 aircraft (confirming The Air Current’s report) and this likely keeps the A220 in play as Southwest requires about 600 aircraft in the sub-150 seat segment. 

Even mighty Southwest has to ponder what happens when Breeze starts its A223 enabled cherry-picking and when Delta is able to produce lower seat-mile costs and JetBlue deploys its A223s to effect.  Fight one of them, no problem.  But fight all three of them?  It looks like whichever way Southwest turns it could be facing an A220.  And that’s before other US competitors acquire A220s or E2s.

Airbus has the advantage of the A220 being a clean-sheet design that is proving to be an excellent tool.  Even as Airbus finds ways to make this aircraft more capable, think about what happens when Pratt & Whitney offers a GTF PIP with improved gearing.  The A220-300s growing popularity is understandable because it is at the start of its service life.