JetBlue signed on as the very first customer for the newly renamed Airbus A220-300, formerly known as the CSeries CS300. The firm order for 60 frames, plus options for another 60, was announced just hours after Airbus hosted an event in Toulouse formally unveiling the new branding. The 60 aircraft will arrive beginning in 2020, with deliveries spread over five years, replacing the carrier’s E190 fleet. The additional 60 options are for deliveries beginning in 2025 to allow for further growth of the fleet.
The long rumored order places JetBlue as the number two carrier for the A220 family of aircraft, behind Delta Air Lines‘s 75 frames and ahead of airbaltic’s 50. Air Canada‘s fleet plan shows 45 firm orders for the type. JetBlue‘s aircraft will come from the new assembly line being built in Mobile, Alabama alongside the Airbus A320 family final assembly line there. That A220 line is expected to open in 2020, eventually ramping up to support production of 50-60 aircraft per year. Airbus executives are keen to point out that nearly 50% of the order backlog currently rests with US carriers and assembling locally is a strong value proposition for those airlines.
JetBlue is taking the larger of the A220 variant, designed to carry 130-160 passengers. Specific cabin layout details remain unknown but keeping to the carrier’s more generous legroom layout should see approximately 130-140 seats on board. This will allow for a mix of the carrier’s regular and “Even More Space” seating on board. This also keeps the type a lower capacity option compared to the 162 seats the A320s will fly with by 2020 (150 today) or the 200 the all-economy A321s carry.
The carrier retains the option to convert some of the A220 orders to the smaller –100 type. The deal also includes conversion of 25 A320 family options and adjusting the delivery schedule on those aircraft.
JetBlue cites a 29% reduction in direct operating costs per seat, translating into a $4.5mm profit increase per aircraft as part of the shift. That’s a massive boon, even considering the deposits previously paid for the Embraer E190 orders that will no longer fly for the carrier. Playing into some of the more consistent passenger experience on board with similar cabin layouts and a growing commonality of “design language” on board. That’s a lot of potential win for the airline and its passengers. And for the A220 product line, an offering that needs a big order boost in the coming months to get on track to profitability.