JetBlue Orders 60+ Airbus A220s, Plans Big Fleet Refresh

Earlier James wrote about how the Bombardier CSeries aircraft is being rebranded as the Airbus A220. Airbus has bought a majority stake in the CSeries program, and that change was finalized just over a week ago. So as a first step, they’re rebranding this as part of the Airbus product line.

While plenty of airlines have the CSeries on order, the plane now formally known as the Airbus A220 has just received its first order. JetBlue has just placed an order for 60 Airbus A220-300, a deal which is valued at 5.4 billion USD at list prices.

This makes JetBlue the third US airline to order this aircraft type (the other two orders were placed when the plane was still known as the CSeries. Specifically, Delta will be the first US airline to take delivery of this plane, and then startup Moxy is the only other US airline to have ordered the plane, with 60 of the planes on order.

When will JetBlue get their Airbus A220?

JetBlue will begin taking delivery of the A220 in 2020, and in addition to 60 firm orders, JetBlue has a further 60 options that can be exercised starting in 2025.

JetBlue will be getting a bulk of these deliveries in 2023 and 2024, as they’ll get five of them in 2020, four of them in 2021, eight of them in 2022, 19 of them in 2023, 22 of them in 2024, and two of them in 2025.

As part of this, JetBlue has also reshaped some of the other Airbus aircraft they have on order — they’ve converted their 25 Airbus A320neo orders to Airbus A321neos instead, and have adjusted the delivery schedule.

JetBlue will replace their E190s with A220s

JetBlue will be using the Airbus A220 to replace their Embraer 190s, which they plan to retire starting in 2020. The retirement schedule should be pretty gradual, and I imagine it will pretty closely reflect when the A220s enter service, since JetBlue has the same number of E190s in their fleet as they have A220s on order.

JetBlue says that the Airbus A220 has a 40% lower fuel burn per seat than JetBlue’s E190s, which is a huge difference. They see this plane as opening up a lot of new markets that weren’t previously possible. The A220 has a much longer range than the E190, so they’ll be able to use this plane for transcon flying.

The E190 has a seating capacity of 100, while the A220-300 has a seating capacity of 130-160, depending on the configuration. Since JetBlue has generous legroom, an extra legroom economy section, and no first class, I’d assume their seat count to be somewhere in the middle, so let’s say around 145.

In many ways this plane isn’t a replacement for the E190, given how much bigger it is. However, if the fuel burn is 40% lower, that basically means the fuel burn on the two planes is roughly comparable, and if you can carry almost 50 additional passengers, you might as well. In terms of capacity it’s similar to the A320, which has a capacity of 150 (though that will eventually be increased to 162).

The Airbus A220 is great for passengers

I’ve only taken one flight on the CSeries (now Airbus A220), and absolutely loved it. It’s a smooth plane with wide seats and only one middle seat per row, and the cabin is modern and stylish. This is great news for passengers.

Bottom line

I’m excited to see another US airline order this great plane. The plane has low operating costs and is great from a passenger experience standpoint, so it’s a win-win.

At the same time, I find this move a bit surprising in some ways. In terms of capacity the A220-300 is more of an A320 replacement than an E190 replacement. So long term JetBlue will be shifting to higher capacity planes. However, I guess their logic here is that if the E190 and A220 have roughly comparable fuel burn, why wouldn’t you want to carry a few dozen extra passengers?

This order is also great news for Airbus, not just because of this particular order, but because it will hopefully encourage other airlines to consider the plane as well. I imagine they’re hoping to get a bit of excitement surrounding the rebranding of this plane, and this is a good start.

The order is awful news for Boeing, though. In response to the partnership between Airbus and Bombardier, Boeing and Embraer are forming a partnership. With JetBlue shifting these planes from Boeing/Embraer to Airbus/Bombardier, that’s quite a loss for Boeing.

What do you make of JetBlue’s decision to place such a big order for the Airbus A220?

Comments

  1. Just love how Boeing made a whole uproar about this and all it’s done is play to Airbus’ advantage.

    What is it with Aemrican Aviation companies and complaining about unfair government funding when they get just as much or even more?

    The increase in size is just following current trend. At one point the a319 was hugely popular and now has less orders than the a318 had.
    More airlines are moving to the slightly larger varients of aircraft so I do think this is intended as a direct replacement of the E-jets.

  2. @ Lucky – think we’ll ever hear more about Jetblue trying to enter the trans-Atlantic market? This plane couldn’t do it but the A321-neo should be able to do the hop to London.

  3. A220 fits their replacement schedule better than whenever Embraer does their refresh. Wonder if those deferred 190 orders get cancelled now.

    Also many of those planes are on the northeast commuter corridor. Gates are harder to get , pilots are harder to get, and also those perminter restrictions are being lengthened or removed, yet may not be feasible from $ or noise/size restriction to allow a 320. Goldilocks planes.

  4. And the US wants a larger trade war with Canada? You can keep your bloated Boeing……I’ll enjoy all this oil up here, thank you very much

  5. Airbus today said that it’s aiming to ‘streamline’ the cockpit with that of the A320 so that pilots don’t need an extra type certification for the A220. This is a huge plus that will certainly convince more A320 customers to order this plane.

    I’ve only heard nice things about this plane. I wonder if because of range Jetblue will install a few Mint seats in a some of these planes.

  6. @Ah
    The A220-300 (ok i’ll still call it the CS300) can do a transatlantic hop with a full cabin of 130pax. That was revealed some time last year.

  7. So, JetBlue´s hub is BOS and as they tend to be on the lower end of seatcount with their spacious layout anyways, who knows how far these jets can travel with that? Even if it´s “only” 3,300mi that would be enough for BOS-DUB, BOS-MAN and BOS-LHR within reach. A number of other interesting destinations like MAD or CDG are awfully close to that. Who knows, maybe some of this has been at play?

  8. @Flieger – that would be nice especially since the seats in the A220 can be 19” wide which almost makes them almost PE-like especially in EMS rows. I still say they’ll Use the A321LR so they can offer Mint. Maybe they’ll add another 2 row section of Mint and go with 22 seats for transatlantic flights.

    I hope they don’t “densify” the A220 as much as the A320 update. The 32” seat pitch in the E190 was decent but not so much in the A320. Same goes for EMS seats.

    With the upgrade to the A320 order to A321s, I wonder if the A220 will replace some older A320’s?

  9. @lucky

    I was just looking into the possibility of mint seats fitting into an A220, and instead came across this:

    http://www.flyody.com/about.aspx

    A startup airline that plans to use the A220 to launch long-haul flights from London City, with all lie-flat seats. Supposedly they’ve already ordered 40 of them.

    I don’t know how realistic any of that is, but given your interest in Aura I thought I’d share it.

  10. @Lucky don’t forget that Air Canada also has a large order for the CS300 as a replacement for their outgoing E190s, which ironically Boeing agreed to buy from AC in return for choosing the Max over the NEO as their A319/320 replacement.

  11. This is nice that JB is doing this, but I refuse to fly them until they fix their OTP. It is absolutely abysmal and has left me stranded many times. Yes, new planes will be nice, but I don’t expect any of this to fix the carriers largest issue that is tanking them in an industry they are already being squeezed in numerous ways.

    Also, I see this as a first step of reducing their leg room. I will be curious to see if they maintain their extra legroom and continue to advertise this, or if they continue to align with the legacy carriers.

    Jetblue gets two thumbs down for me.

  12. I dunno, Delta and even Alaska have stranded me way more than JetBlue, and Delta’s downright unpleasant.

  13. Ben,

    I can’t agree with logic along the lines of “if we can carry 50 more seats for the same fuel burn, we may as well.”

    Of course that plan works out well if it is safe to assume that all of those seats will be consistently sold. But for a lot of the current E190 routes, that can’t be assumed. If it could be, B6 would have just placed the A320 on all those routes and would have forgone the E190 altogether. The E190 is used because it is the right size for the markets it serves, and/or allows B6 to have the number of frequencies that it wants for a given route.

    Even if flying a A220 with 50 empty seats results in the same fuel burn as a full E190, it’s still going to have higher landing fees since it is a bigger plane, along with higher crew costs, and likely higher maintenance costs (especially for maintenance on those fancy newfangled GTF engines), and depressed ticket yields as a result of B6 struggling to fill up the plane. As you know, on short hops, the fuel burn advantage of the A220 will be less than the figures currently being touted, since the bulk of the efficiency gains from these modern new engines occur at cruising altitude. When half of a given flight is consumed by ascent and descent, the fuel efficiency advantage of the A220 is lessened. I’m sure there’s a bunch of other stuff that I’m missing, but the bottom line is that airlines don’t want to risk flying with too many empty seats regardless of how efficient the plane is.

    My take is that at least some of this order will end up being converted to the smaller A220 variant, which is closer to a direct replacement of the E190 in terms of capacity. The majority of the A220-300’s will be used to open up new routes and replace the less efficient but similarly-sized A320, particularly on longer routes. B6’s A320 fleet is far and away the oldest subfleet that B6 has, and roughly 35 of their A320’s will be over 20 years old by the time bulk A220 deliveries start for B6 in 2023.

  14. Saying ” In terms of capacity it’s similar to the A320, which has a capacity of 150 (though that will eventually be increased to 162).” has totally confused me.

    The A320 has a capacity far in excess of 150. And 162.

  15. I certainly hope this trend motivates JetBlue’s transatlantic prospects. Heck I once wrote to Jblu on their “recommend a destination” page to establish a hub in Tbilisi. The 321LR could make everything from Seoul to Lisbon (and then on to the east coast). TBS is a regional transit hub waiting to happen imo!

  16. Mint cabins will fit on these new aircrafts or will only fit them with economy seats.

  17. @ George Anderson — It hasn’t been revealed yet, but I would expect they’ll just have economy.

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