airBaltic Is Very Interested In An Airbus A220 Stretch (A220-500)

Simple Flying caught up with CEO of airBaltic, Martin Gauss, to ask for his thoughts on a stretched version of the popular A220 aircraft. airBaltic is well on the way to becoming an all-A220 operator, and Airbus has previously expressed an interest in developing a bigger version, dubbed the A220-500. But would airBaltic buy it?

airBaltic A220-500
airBaltic would support an A220-500. Photo: airBaltic

airBaltic would support an A220 stretch

airBaltic is currently the world’s biggest operator of the A220-300, the slightly larger variant of the type. It doesn’t operate any of the A220-100 and has no desire to use a smaller variant at this time. But would the airline consider a larger A220, should such an aircraft become available?

Simple Flying caught up with CEO Martin Gauss at the IATA Wings of Change Europe conference to ask him just that. He told us,

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“We very much support this idea. Airbus is quoted as saying they could think about a larger A220 in the future. We think this aircraft is really efficient, so a stretched version of it could be even more efficient, because you would be able to have more seats.”

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A220 transatlantic
airBaltic is on track to become an all A220 operator. Photo: Jo Bailey – Simple Flying

Airbus certainly has indicated some interest in developing a larger A220. Back when the A220 was the C-Series, Bombardier always planned to have a larger variant, the CS-500. This larger version would increase seating capacity from the current 145 of the A220-300 up to 165 passengers. Back in January, Airbus showed their interest, but said they wanted to establish the type firmly before making any changes.

However, in June this year at the Paris Air Show, CCO at Airbus Christian Scherer said that they were not considering an A220-500 right now. At the time, they had just launched the A321XLR, so were wise to not take on too much all at once.

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More recently, Reuters reports Philippe Balducchi, CEO of Airbus Canada as not entirely ruling it out. He is quoted as saying,

“Will (there) be an A220-500 or not? I cannot tell you that today. It’s definitely not my priority but there is the potential – we will see.”

Will Airbus make the A220-500?

The problem with a stretch of the A220 is that it would too closely compete with other members of the A320neo family of aircraft. We’ve already seen how the A220-300 has cannibalized sales of the A319neo… make it any bigger and the A320neo is going to take a hit. Mr. Gauss summed it up beautifully, telling Simple Flying,

“The A220-300 that we use today is a replacement for an A319neo, so the stretched version could then be a replacement for the A320neo. That would mean the entry model on the A320 series would be the A321. If you’re looking at eight or 10 years from now, it could be something sensible to do. We can certainly see the potential and would support any modification to our existing aircraft type.”

airBaltic, new routes, summer 2020
airBaltic’s CEO, Martin Gauss. Photo: Simple Flying

And therein lies the problem. The A320neo is Airbus’ bestselling aircraft, with orders in place for almost 4,000 of the type. It wouldn’t make sense, at this stage, to release an A220-500, but in a few years’ time when the A320neos are starting to age, perhaps this would be more feasible.

A lot of love for the A220

Ever since the launch of the rebranded Bombardier C Series as the Airbus A220, airlines around the world can’t get enough of it. But, even before the aircraft was brought into the Airbus family, some airlines had already realized the potential for this fabulously functional narrowbody aircraft.

The first operator of the Bombardier C Series was SWISS International Air Lines, who launched the CS100 in July 2016. Right behind them, in December that year, airBaltic became the launch operator of the larger version, the CS300.

SWISS A220
The first C-Series, the CS100, was launched by SWISS. Photo: Bombardier

At the time, airBaltic had 20 of the 300s on order from Bombardier, with plans to operate it alongside its 12 Boeing 737s and 12 Bombardier Q400s. This September, the airline received its final aircraft from that original order, but by that point had clearly fallen in love with the aircraft, taking the decision to become an all A220 operator.

In May 2018, airBaltic had placed an order for 30 more CS300s, with options for a further 30. In October this year, both airBaltic and SWISS replaced the C-Series designation with the new Airbus A220 name, becoming part of the world-renowned Airbus family. Although a handful of 737s are awaiting retirement, airBaltic is on track to have a single fleet type by next summer.

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crik

It should be noted that Airbus currently holds 51% of the A220 program, while Bombardier still holds 49%. This is a further argument against developing the A220-500 now as a competitor to the A320, which is owned 100% by Airbus.

Frank

Airbus actually has a 50.01% majority stake in this partnership, with Bombardier keeping 31% and Investissement Québec 19%. But Airbus does have the option, in a few years – to purchase the entire program outright…which is probably when you’d see an announcement on an A220-500

Fred Christiansen

Per Wikipedia: Airbus acquired a 50.01% majority stake in the CSeries program in October 2017, with the deal closing in July 2018. As part of the deal, Bombardier retained a 31% stake in the aircraft and Investissement Québec 19%.

crik

Frank, Fred, thanks for adding the details. Didn’t remember that Quebec still owns a stake in the program.

Luis

Airbus bought the CS program precisely to control and prevent it from posing a treat to the A320.. It will cash in on it but for the foreseeable future it is unlikely that the A220-500 will leave the paper.

David C.

If there is enough pressure/demand from certain airlines, the A220-500 will move forward. don’t underestimate that demand as it has been publicly announced by several major airlines. And if Southwest indicates it would take on the A220-300, Airbus would have to look at the 500 as the fleet replacement for the 737’s that will reach the end of their life cycles. The A220 is a game changer and as it gets more firmly entrenched with airlines, its economics and comfort will push the air framers to either emulate or expand with it.

mileduets

With the production stop of the MAX and the huge order backlog of the A320, the situation has changed since. Now, production capacity is more of a concern than cannibalization. By opening a production line for a A220-500, preferably in the USA, Airbus could effectively take over more market share in the single isle segment. It would seem a logical decision to me to launch this variant asap.

Tony

Boeing must be regretting pushing Bombardier into Airbuses arms with it’s legal antics getting duties slapped on the then CS series. Big win for Airbus and the last thing Boeing needs with the 737MAX issues. 2020 isn’t looking much better for Boeing.

John

It would seem to me that Boeing gets just what it deserves after killing 346 people because of cost cutting and bad engineering.

David C.

The CS-500 has flown on paper. Same wing, same wing box, same landing gear, same avionics. Bombardier could get it to FTV in less than 18 months. The variant was always part of the planning for the airframe, but Bombardier did not want to compete directly against Airbus or Boeing. With the noise coming from Air Baltic and Air France plus the potential demand from Moxy/Breeze once they start up, I would be that the A220-500 starts to move forward despite the threat it makes towards the A320neo line.

Ivan

I think it would be a sensible move to keep the same wing, wingbox, landing gear for the stretch version. The range would probably dropped to 2500-2800nmi. But it would be sufficient enough to operate most routes and it wouldn’t kill A320neo entirely.

David C.

A220 – 300 range is 3,798nmi. the extension of the fuselage would not be long enough to drop it below 3200nmi, and that is without the addition of a center tank. Center tank discussions are already under way for the 300. I think Airbus is reluctant to move to the 500 now because they do not have a product with comparable efficiency. It would poach from the A320 line. Airbus is known for allowing line changes on committed aircraft. (IE A320 to A321 etc..) Would they allow buyers to switch from the A320 to the A220? My bet is no.… Read more »

André Lussier

with a bit of forward thinking, airbus would be better off with cs-500, with 4000 A-320 orders, there is room for a younger type, and yes I have Bombardier shares

Niklas Andersson

Moi aussi. I have also some share from Bombardier, Thales, Airbus, Hanza, United Flexible and Safran

John

Haven’t heard if the engine problem with the A220 is fixed. Did P&W do so yet?

David C.

As of the end of October, it was looking like a software issue causing the failures. P&W is doing a lot more inspections on the Swiss engines now (at their cost) since they are the highest cycle engines for the model. There has not been an airworthiness directive regarding them so far. But its interesting to track to see how they work around it.