JetBlue Airways will use 60 new Airbus A220 aircraft to replace its existing Embraer 190 planes with more seats aboard planes with larger overhead bins and windows, executives said Wednesday.
“We are absolutely thrilled with the A220, believing that it balances the needs of all of our stakeholders,” President Joanna Geraghty told investors and reporters during a conference call.
Marty St. George, JetBlue’s executive vice president for commercial and planning, said A220s are versatile enough with a 3,300 nautical-mile range to use on short and medium-length flights, and – possibly – for transcontinental service.
JetBlue will begin taking delivery of the jets in 2020.
Because A220s are more efficient, the airframes cost less to fly despite holding up to 40 percent more seats than the E190s they'll replace, officials said.
Markets ripe for larger A220s include routes like Westchester, New York, to Florida and Boston to Austin, Texas, and New Orleans, St. George said. The planes could eventually be flown on red-eye and daylight transcontinental service, and on red-eye service to the Caribbean, he said.
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“There’s a sizable chunk of the existing 190 flying that is really much better flown in a much larger aircraft,” St. George said. “Some of these longer-haul routes (are) where we could really use these extra seats.”
The 60 A220s, which will replace 30 owned and 30 leased Embraer planes, will help convert the airline to an all-Airbus fleet, which JetBlue said would result in savings in crew training and maintenance.
The Airbus jets cost 29 percent less per seat to operate – including a 40 percent savings in fuel burn – than the existing Embraer planes, and they fly quieter with new Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engines, officials said.
“This is a game-changer for JetBlue,” said Steve Priest, JetBlue’s chief financial officer.
JetBlue had announced Tuesday it ordered 60 Airbus A220-300 aircraft – planes that were previously called the Bombardier CS300 – for delivery beginning in 2020. The airline has an option for another 60 planes starting in 2025 that could be either A220-100 or -300 aircraft.
Compared to about 100 seats on the Embraer 190s, the A220-100s will have 120 seats and the A220-300 about 130 to 140 seats.
“We have a real opportunity to redefine the interiors," Geraghty said.
The A220 decision didn't anticipate offering premium Mint seats that include lie-flat seats, which aren't available on the Embraer planes. But Geraghty didn't rule out the possibility.
“This has been such a successful product for us that we’re always open to those ideas," she said.
As part of the agreement, JetBlue converted an earlier order for 25 A320neos to the larger A321neo and adjusted the delivery schedule.
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JetBlue’s options during a 15-month fleet review was between larger Airbus 320 family or the next generation of A220 or Embraer 195. JetBlue officials offered cost comparisons to the existing 190 planes, but not the 195.
“We had to make a very, very difficult decision,” Priest said. “We believe the A220 is the perfect fit.”
The aircraft sparked an international trade dispute when Delta Air Lines ordered 75 of the version with 109 seats each. The U.S. International Trade Commission found Canadian government support for Bombardier worth triple each plane’s price tag but declined to impose a tariff for lack of harm to Boeing, which didn’t produce a similarly sized plane.
After the dust settled, Airbus had taken a majority stake in the Bombardier CSeries, with planes to be built in Mobile, Alabama, and Boeing had formed a joint venture with Brazilian regional-jet manufacturer Embraer.
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