Airbus A220 : What’s the big deal ?

Airbus announced new addition to its fleet, the Airbus A220. Why’s the buzz around the aircraft and what’s the big deal with it?

History short. Airbus A220 was not designed by Airbus itself but rather by Bombardier as the Bombardier C-Series aircraft. The aircraft saw its maiden flight in 2013, but the production was hit with huge delays. Bombardier saw that the program could no longer be profitable if the delay continues. Then on 2017, Airbus came in. By deal, Airbus bought 30% of stake of Bombardier along with the rights to manufacture the aircraft on its US assembly line. Production costs was reduced by Airbus’s supply chain expertise and by assembling aircraft on US soil, Airbus could circumvent 300% import duties on selling the aircraft to US airlines. Because of Airbus’s huge marketing potential, the aircraft sales were expected to be anywhere in the region of 1000’s. That a huge profit for both companies. C-series was rebranded as A220 in 2018.

So what’s the big deal ? Why is the aircraft expected to sell too much ?

For a long time, major manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus couldn’t compete on short haul routes that gets less passengers. Routes like these can’t be served by 737’s or A320’s as they are not economical. This is mostly because the number of passengers on these routes are relatively low and the flights would run half empty if they are operated on A320’s. And cost/seat (calculated by operating, fuel and maintenance charges) are high on jets compared to turbo prop planes. As a result, most of these routes are operated by turbo prop planes like ATR’s or jets from Embraer or Bombardier. Fokker the aircraft manufacturer was known for planes on these shorter hauls.

In technical point of view, aircraft serving on these routes often hop from one aircraft to another with about 30 minutes of stopping time. Runways are usually short. This makes operation of A320 and 737’s harder on these routes.

This is where the A220 comes in. Its a narrow body jetliner with 3-2 seat configuration. Like ATR’s it can seat anywhere from 100-130 passengers. Due to its 40% composite material build, its light and burns 20% less fuel than its competitors.Its cost/seat is expected to be 40% less than E190 jets and mostly because of this reason, more airlines are expected to buy A220 for its shorter haul routes. New shorter routes can be created between smaller airports and be hugely profitable.

The airline industry is pretty interesting to look at and i am eager to know how A220’s would be used in shorter routes in India.

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