A recent “charm offensive” is showing us whether or not Airbus is prepared to abandon a (questionable) A320neo sale, in favour of the A220.
In several previous articles, we discussed the possibility that Airbus might launch a longer A220 variant, that many call the A220-500. This is something that many current A220-300 customers would rather like. Those include Air France, and most likely JetBlue and other A320ceo users with no current A320neo orders. And therein lies the rub: Airbus is worried that a longer A220 could hurt A320neo sales.
It’s a somewhat ironic subject, because Bombardier intended this aircraft to compete with the 737 and the A320. Many saw the CSeries as an Embraer competitor, but this really applies only to the smaller CS100/A220-100. Today thanks to the A220 and A320neo families, Airbus has the most complete single-aisle line-up in the industry. But this completeness brings with it some headaches.
Airbus is already seeing very few sales for its A319neo. The A320ceo was the biggest seller in that family generation. Now, the largest A321neo represents over HALF of the total orders of the entire A320neo range! But while the A220 is getting many orders for Airbus at the lower end, this shift in demand isn’t something the manufacturer was expecting. And they weren’t ready for it. Production-wise, Airbus simply can’t assemble the A220 as fast as the A320neo.
An Actual A220 Vs A320neo Dilemma?
But nobody lives in a vacuum in this world, and some unusual situations call for unusual actions. Last week, Airbus flew an A220-300 to Croatia, for a Demo Tour. The manufacturer invited local media and several airlines. Realistically, the airline with the best chance to operate such an aircraft is Croatia Airlines. They don’t have any A220 orders, but Airbus has orders for four A320neo aircraft, in the airline’s name.
Currently, Croatia Airlines has five A319s, 2 A320s (all ‘ceo’ models) and six Q400 turboprops. None of these aircraft is in storage. But the airline recently got some interesting advice from the Boston Consulting Group. According to them, they should retire ALL of these aircraft and standardize to a single type. Specifically, to one sized between the A320 and the Q400.
This is because the airline flies many feeder routes from Germany and elsewhere. For many of them, the Q400 is either too small or has too short a range. But for most of them, the A319/320 is too big, especially in the offseason. This means that they have only a few flights per route per week in winter, for many of these routes. But this doesn’t work when working as a ‘feeder’ airline.
The ‘Goldilocks’ Plane?
The A220 would suit the airline much better than the four A320neo aircraft that they have on order. AirBaltic, whose plane made it to Croatia, had a similar dilemma, with its new A220-300s replacing 737s and Q400s. But here the matter may be academic. The pandemic has really strained Croatia Airlines, to the point that many doubt that they could take delivery of these jets. But what if Airbus was willing to change that A320neo order, over to the A220?
We have seen that in the past year and a half, Airbus has been very flexible with its customer airlines – in most cases (AirAsia being the exception). Wherever possible, they have sought to defer order deliveries, rather than cancel them. Clearly, Airbus is well aware of the financial state of Croatia Airlines. But the A220 Demo Tour appears to be Airbus’ idea, so could they be offering it to the airline, as an A320neo alternative?
Time will tell, but Airbus has so far been relatively reserved in its A220 promotion efforts, especially during the pandemic. To be fair, Croatia Airlines would likely prefer the smaller A220-100, a plane that has proven less popular than its big brother. Regardless, this A220 promotion is a special case, and far from a swing away from the A320neo, for Airbus.
But it’s worth keeping an eye on how the manufacturer markets its smallest single-aisle. If Airbus can keep the type’s supply chain issues in check, they will likely begin promoting it more… warmly. And realistically, we will have to wait for that before an A220-500 is worth pursuing, for Airbus.
Spyros Georgilidakis has degrees in Business Enterprise and Management. He has 14 years of experience in the hospitality and travel industries, along with a passion for all-things-aviation and travel logistics. He is also an experienced writer and editor for on-line publications, and a licensed professional drone pilot.
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I’m sorry I don’t do these but the topic triggers me so, the A220-100/300 vs A320 A319 debate needs to stop. The play well to market in terms of range comfort and pricing there was this misconception to smash as much people into a tube and make maximum profit. The 220 is small profile product with a good footprint size for regional to non regional the A320 are your max profit platform a starting airline could get there feet wet the A220 then bump up operations to an A320.
I was fortunate enough to fly as a passenger on the inaugural Delta A220-300 round trip from SLC to IAH last November. I found the aircraft very comfortable and quiet. I would recommend the A220 to anyone who prefers single aisle aircraft, especially a couple who appreciates sitting together without a third individual in the group (2-3 seating). As to which aircraft series would be more advantageous to an airline I believe it would depend on how an airline views its growth prospects. For a “feeder” airline the A220 would be preferable because of the shorter range and lower capacity of the aircraft with the possible development of a high capacity aircraft in the future. For an airline with transcontinental aspirations the A320 series would be preferable because of the possibility of expanding into the range of the A321XLR.
Trying to think back when I was first working the PW1500 then going by the Cseries. Seems to me BA’s intent wasn’t to target specic series of single aisle aircraft but to break into a niche market (airport driven than aircraft competition). At time that I started in 2008 time frame, I was new to commercial aircraft coming from the F35 engine program. I went to BA with a couple other engineers and at time they were talking its design was for niche opening up new airports currently not serviced by this size aircraft. Remember at its conception, there was no A320 or A321neo or 737 max. So BA was coming in with a new quiet fuel efficient aircraft, 20% more fuel efficient. PW A320/A321 engine program started after the Cseries. (Although could have been already in planning stages). Looking at a Canadian Government document. It’s states to the design objective
“to develop a new family of larger regional aircraft with a seating capacity of between 100 and 149 seats and a transcontinental capability.” Followed by fuel savings objectives of 15 to 20%.
Their niche was a transcontinental capable aircraft quiet enough to service regional size airports and is fuel efficient enough to be competitive between the regional and larger single aisle markets.