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,

“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.”

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.

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.

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.