JetBlue ended 2020 by taking delivery of its first Airbus A220-300. The airline will replace its Embraer E190s with the A220. But… it will probably do a little bit more than that. That’s because the interesting thing about JetBlue is the aircraft that they are NOT ordering…
JetBlue’s new Airbus A220 first flew on the 9th of December. Getting the first of them in 2020 was a goal of both JetBlue and Airbus. This and JetBlue’s 69 other A220s, will come from the Alabama assembly line. On the 31st of December, it flew from there to JFK in New York. The empty aircraft flew at a lofty 41,000 feet, arriving in around two hours.
Before JetBlue, the Airbus A220 already had a lot of new fans. Air Baltic have now made it their only type, replacing both smaller and bigger jets. Air France are hoping to make it their only single-aisle type… maybe. But JetBlue’s choice for this Airbus is interesting, because they already had a fleet of Embraer E-Jets.
Embraer would have hoped to get a JetBlue order for E2-190s, its re-engined successor to the E-190. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Interestingly, the airline has 60 E-190s. But Airbus will make 70 A220s for JetBlue. And that, along with some other details in JetBlue’s orders, raises a few questions. The simplest explanation here is that JetBlue hopes to expand, so has ordered 10 extra jets. The last Embraers will retire by 2025.
JetBlue’s Role(s) For Their Airbus A220s
The Airbus A320 family has been the mainstay of JetBlue’s fleet. The airline had A320s and A321s, before getting some new A321neos. They have orders for 59 of those, to replace 63 A321ceos. But they have orders for another 26 LR and XLR A321 variants. So no real discrepancy there. We already know that JetBlue plans to expand its operations with some long-range routes.
However, the airline has NO new orders for A320neos, only for A321s. And THAT is interesting, because they have 130 A320ceos! The aircraft is the most numerous in their fleet. Could this mean that JetBlue’s new Airbus A220s will replace their A320s – at least in part?
JetBlue’s A320s have 162 seats – some have fewer, but will eventually be changed to that number, with new slim seats. JetBlue has been ‘cagey’ about the interior of their new Airbus A220s, but we know they’ll have 140 seats. That is a considerable difference, but note that other airlines squeeze another row of five seats. The new A220s will reportedly have a 30% lower direct operating cost than the E-190s. In terms of cost-per-seat, they are even lower than that. In comparison, the A320ceo would be very close to the Embraer.
The above is just speculation at this point. Obviously the order numbers of the airline don’t yet support it – other than the lack of A320neo orders. But if JetBlue are thinking in these terms about their Airbus A220s, they’re certainly not alone. As we have already seen, Air France has had some very similar thoughts, as well.
A Keen Observer Looks On…
Air France has every member of the A320 family. And they want to replace all of them with A220s. Except, this isn’t really possible right now. Similar to JetBlue, Air France’s A220-300 could easily replace their Airbus A319 and A320. However the same isn’t true of the A321. That’s why Air France is pressuring Airbus to make a bigger A220-500.
JetBlue would likely be able to make a stretch Airbus A220 work for many of their routes. But certainly not all of them. JetBlue want to cross the Atlantic, and the A321LR and XLR are the best choices there. And it would make little sense for the airline to get 26 aircraft just for these routes, and have no more A32x aircraft.
Air France will certainly look on with interest as JetBlue starts using its Airbus A220 fleet. JetBlue’s A321LR should arrive in 2021. This will, in all likelihood, be what Air France will have to work with, if no A220-500 is forthcoming.
The A220 is a very interesting aircraft. Its smaller cross-section and high-bypass geared turbofan engines make it very efficient. JetBlue’s A320 fleet is still reasonably young. Perhaps a nice, long evaluation period of their new Airbus A220s is prime in JetBlue’s plans, before their next move.