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Family ties

The A220 is the newest member of the Airbus family. Angus Mackay and Stuart Rubin from ICF examine the market prospects for the former C Series programme

The Airbus A220 series – formerly Bombardier’s C Series – currently comprises two models, the 110-seat A220-100 and 130-seat A220-300. The A220 series is a single-aisle, medium-to-long range passenger aircraft family intended to compete at both the upper end of the regional jet segment and at the lower end of the narrowbody market segment. Both aircraft models are clean-sheet designs, feature 3+2 abreast economy, and incorporate significant use of aluminum-lithium and composite materials in both the fuselage and wing primary structure, in addition to as other features associated with new-technology aircraft programmes including advanced engine technology, fly-by-wire control systems, electric brakes, lower cabin altitude and larger windows.

Pratt & Whitney PW1500G PurePower geared turbofan (GTF) engines power the A220 aircraft. Based on OEM data, the A220 is expected to emit 20% less CO2, 50% less NO2, and deliver 20% lower fuel-burn with 15% better cash operating costs in comparison to the previous generation’s similar-sized aircraft (Bombardier CRJ, Embraer E-Jet, Boeing 737NG and Airbus A320ceo Family aircraft). Initial indications from early airline operators is that the aircraft generally meet or even slightly exceed those original expectations.

The A220-100 has a range of 3,100nm. As of August 2018, there were eight A220-100 aircraft in service and an additional 105 on firm order backlog. This aircraft competes most directly with the Embraer 190/195.    

E1 current-generation aircraft (660 in service and 42  on firm order backlog), the Bombardier CRJ900 (412 in service and 61 on firm order backlog) and to a lesser extent the out-of-production Avro RJ100. Competition is also now coming from the GTF-engined Embraer 190/195 E2 new-generation aircraft, which entered service with launch customer Widerøe in April 2018 and the type now has three aircraft in service and an additional 215 on firm order backlog.


The A220-300 has a range of 3,300nm and competes most directly with the Airbus A318/319 (1,341 in service and 15 on firm order backlog) and the Boeing 737-600/-700 aircraft (1,072 in service and two on firm order backlog). Future competition will stem from the A319neo (66 on firm order backlog) and the Boeing 737 MAX 7 (72 on firm order backlog) which have yet to enter service. The A220-300 entered service with Air Baltic in November 2016 and the type has now 30 aircraft in service with three operators. The current firm order backlog stood at 248 aircraft, with 31 delivered as of August 2018.

Momentum for the original C Series programme proved difficult for Bombardier to sustain, in large part due to defensive marginal price discounting from Airbus and Boeing with their established products A319 and 737-700 models on one flank, and by Embraer with its E2 new-generation aircraft series on the other. Market optimism improved in 2016 with a breakthrough order by Delta Air Lines for 75 CS100 aircraft with 50 options to replace their MD-83 fleet. However, in 2017 Boeing filed a complaint with the US Department of Commerce accusing Bombardier of price dumping – in the initial round of the dispute, the Department of Commerce imposed import tariffs of nearly 300%.

In October 2017, Airbus announced its intent to seek a 50.1% majority in the Bombardier C Series programme and to shift final production to its existing assembly facility in Mobile, AL. Subsequently, in January 2018, the US International Trade Commission repudiated the tariffs and several months later, the acquisition of the C Series by Airbus was finalised. „

At the Farnborough Airshow this July, Airbus rebranded the former C Series as the A220 and announced a key order from JetBlue the same day for 60 A220 aircraft with options for a further 60. An additional boost came from an existing operator, Air Baltic, which recently increased its 20-strong order with a further 20 firm orders and 30 options. These recent wins bode well for future orders as Airbus continues to deploy its marketing, support and financial resources to generate momentum for the aircraft. Airbus currently forecasts approximately 3,000 sales over a 20-year period for the A220 series.


Given the level of technology and clean sheet design, ICF’s view of the former C Series has generally been positive. ICF’s opinion is that the marketing and support capability provided by Airbus has strengthened the market prospects for the rebranded A220. ICF currently sees market values for 2018 year of build A220-100 and -300 aircraft at $33.9 million and $36.7 million respectively and typical lease rates at $245,000 and $285,000 per month for new-build A220-100 and -300 aircraft.

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