JetBlue Airways announced Tuesday that it has placed an order for 60 Airbus A220-300 airplanes with an option to purchase up to 60 more. Deliveries of the new airplane are scheduled to begin in 2020 and options are available starting 2025.
JetBlue has said it doesn’t yet know how many seats the airplane will be configured with. The Airbus A220-300 can hold up to 160 passengers. The airline has a right to convert some of the orders to the smaller A220-100, which can seat up to 135 passengers.
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The new airplane orders are intended to replace Embraer E190 in JetBlue’s fleet. The airline said the economics of the aircraft, the ability to change orders, and increased range were all factors in choosing the new Airbus over existing Embraer aircraft. The A220-300 burns 40 percent less fuel per seat than the E190, isn’t as loud, and has the range to cross the United States.
“It’s truly the next generation of aircraft that customers will love,” said JetBlue Chief Financial Officer Steve Priest. Priest added that once all 60 airplanes are in the fleet it will reduce cost for each seat mile flown by five percent and add approximately three percentage points to JetBlue’s pre-tax profit margin.
As part of updated fleet planning JetBlue has also changed orders for 25 Airbus A320neo to the larger A321neo.
Airbus A220 Has Had a Challenging Market Debut
Airbus took control of what was the Bombardier C-Series amid concerns about the airplane’s feasibility. A cash injection from Quebec and a loan from Canada’s federal government sparked a complaint from Boeing in 2017 that resulted in a tariff being placed on the airplane in the U.S. market. The tariff was later overturned after Airbus took control of the program. Bombardier still has a minority stake.
JetBlue and Delta are now the two U.S. carriers to place orders for the Airbus A220 with Delta Airlines having placed an order for 75 airplanes and options for 50 more. An assembly plant is being built in Alabama to construct A220s for the U.S. market.
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A220 Is In a Class of Its Own
The Airbus A220 defies traditional classification as either a regional jet or transcontinental airliner due to its size, range, and operating cost. The airplane is a clean sheet design capable of flying Mach 0.78 up to 3,300 nm. The two variants of the airplane share significant parts commonality, with the larger variant being 12.2 feet longer.
The Airbus A220 interior features 2 by 3 seating in economy class with most seats 18.5 inches wide, with the middle seats being 19 inches wide. Cabin windows are the largest in the single-aisle class of airliner and cabin noise is among the lowest in the industry.
The airplanes empty weight is at least 2,500 lighter than conventional airplane construction through the use of third-generation aluminum-lithium for the fuselage and resin-transfer-infused carbon fiber for the wing.
The A220 is powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G geared turbofan, with ranges of 18,900-23,300-lb. takeoff thrust available. The large fan turns slower than 3,500 rpm due to a 3:1 reduction gearbox between the turbine engine core and fan. The engine has a bypass ratio of 12:1.
The A220 is the first airliner designed by Bombardier to use fly-by-wire flight controls.