Canada: A2-20/20 Vision – The Rise Of The A220 In North America

By all appearances, Airbus has a vision of the A220 conquering continental skies and is doing all they can to achieve this aim. Following the successful completion of a joint venture in July 2018 between Bombardier Aerospace and Airbus, Airbus SE took a majority stake in the then existing C Series Aircraft Limited Partnership, later rebranded Airbus Canada Limited Partnership, reflecting the majority shareholding. Partners in this company still include Bombardier Inc. and Investissement Québec (acting as mandatory for the government of Quebec).

The A220 family comprises two models: the A220-100 and A220300 (previously designated the Bombardier CSeries). Both are narrow-body, twin-engine, 100-100-to-150-seat capacity aircraft produced in Mirabel, Quebec. Airbus claims that the A220s are designed in response to a global demand for smaller single-aisle jetliners and are purpose-built for efficiency, bringing together state-of-the-art aerodynamics, advanced materials and Pratt & Whitney's latest-generation PW1500G geared turbofan engines projected to offer at least 20 per cent lower-fuel burn per seat compared to previous generation aircraft.

The range ability of the A220-300 is one of the key marketing points for Airbus as the aircraft can reach destinations around 3,200 nautical miles (5,020 km) away and offers the performance of much larger single-aisle aircraft.

In Canada, both model types of the A220 received 180-minute extended operations (ETOPS) approval from the civil aviation authority, Transport Canada Aviation, which permits the airlines that operate the A220 to adopt direct non-limiting routings over water and remote or underserved regions, opening up new possibilities. As stated by Rob Dewar, Head of Engineering and Customer Support, A220 Programme, "Being the only in-production aircraft in its class capable of performing both steep approach and long-range operations, the A220 is definitely unlocking new route opportunities for airlines."

The fuel efficiency, range ability and fact that A220 family has over 99 per cent parts commonality, as well as the same pilottype rating facilitating the aircraft's addition to an airline, means that the A220 demonstrates the potential to be a popular choice for operators, and the order book is beginning to reflect this.

In a press release from January 2019, Airbus noted, "With an order book of more than 500 aircraft to date, the A220 has all the credentials to win the lion's share of the 100 to 150 seat aircraft market estimated to represent at least 7,000 aircraft over the next 20 years". Since over half of these orders are destined for the North American market, the potential domination of A220 within the continent seems more likely.

In the United States, Delta became the first airline to acquire the A220-100, and Airbus has confirmed additional orders for Delta and new orders for U.S. carriers. JetBlue Airways and start-up Moxy are in the pipeline. Air Canada was confirmed to be the first North American operator to fly the larger A220-300, and it has announced new routes beginning in the spring of 2020, including a non-stop service between Montréal and Seattle, as well as between Toronto and San Jose, which opens up Air Canada's transcontinental offering as well as serving existing routes from Montréal and Toronto to Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and New York.

Mark Galardo, vice-president of network planning at Air Canada, was quoted as saying that "the A220 will further strengthen our position on transborder and transcontinental markets and be instrumental in our continued growth" and that "the two routes announced today are the first of many future possibilities as the A220 will allow us to further develop our North American network."

The technology of these aircraft and existence of these orders help signify the potential dominance of the A220 within North America, and there is little indication this rise will slow anytime soon. In anticipation of additional demand for the A220, Airbus recently opened a second production facility in Mobile, Alabama. A pre-assembly line may also be operational in Mirabel sometime around 2021, with a decision on whether to proceed with this investment to be made in the coming weeks, according to Philippe Balducchi, CEO of Airbus Canada Limited Partnership, as quoted in the Montréal Gazette.

On the technological advances front, in May 2019, Airbus announced they were increasing the A220 maximum take-off weight (MTOW) that, in turn, increases the maximum range capabilities of the A220-300 to 3,350 nautical miles and, respectively, 3,400 nautical miles for the A220-100, which is some 450 nautical miles more than currently advertised. Christian Scherer, chief commercial officer of Airbus SE, was quoted as saying, "This new MTOW will allow operators to reach markets which today cannot be served by other small single-aisle aircraft types."

It appears that through further innovation and production capabilities, Airbus intends to keep up with the demands of the North American transborder and transcontinental market. Whether Airbus has perfect vision with respect to A220 domination remains to be seen, but indicators are certainly pointing towards that possibility.

For permission to reprint articles, please contact the Blakes Marketing Department.

© 2019 Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP.

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