Airbus Does Not See The A220-500 As A Priority

Airbus does not currently see a stretch to the A220 as a priority right now. While the aircraft manufacturer sees potential for it, Jeff Knittel, Chairman and CEO of Airbus Americas, states that Airbus has other priorities, including focusing on cash preservation and the ongoing viability of the company.

Airbus A220
While there is potential for an A220 stretch, it is still a few years out. Photo: Airbus

Potential but not a priority

In an Aviation Week webinar, Chairman and CEO of Airbus Americas, Jeff Knittel, stated the following:

“Under Bombardier, there was a lot of discussion about the -500 and the potential. That potential exists today, but it is not a priority. We have a lot on our plate. We are focused on cash preservation ourselves.”

He went on further to describe that Airbus is currently focused on the strength of its A320 program. Plus, with the A220-100 and A220-300 doing well, there is no reason for Airbus to push forward for the launch of the A220-500 at this moment.

What is the A220-500

The Airbus A220-500 is described as a stretched version of the A220-300.  The current A220 family does well in the 100-150 seat market. The A220-100 would do well between the 100-120 seat market while the A220-300 does well between the 120 and 150 seat market. The A220-500 would, theoretically, target around 160 or more passengers, overlapping at the lower end with the Airbus A320neo.

A220 and A320
There would be minimal overlap between the A220-500 and the A320neo. Photo: Airbus

The A220-500 would do well with several airlines. For carriers like airBaltic, which already has an all-A220 fleet (and has expressed interest in the A220-500), the A220-500 would be a natural addition on more high-demand routes without compromising the efficiency of operating a single type of aircraft.

For another airline, like Air France, that has the A220-300 on order and would look at modernizing its A320ceo fleet, the A220-500 would do just that and complement the existing A220 orders. Air France has expressed interest in the A220-500.

Air France
Air France has an order for 60 A220-300s. Photo: Airbus

Other potential customers include Delta Air Lines, Breeze Airways, and SWISS. All of these airlines could use a 160-seater jet that would open up additional route opportunities in the case of SWISS and Breeze Airways, or replace older A320s and Boeing 737s in the case of Delta Air Lines.

Delta A220
Delta, which has the A220-100 in its fleet and orders for the -300, could look at the A220-500 for replacing older A319s or A320s. Photo: Airbus

So when could the A220-500 come out?

Given Mr. Knittel’s comments that Airbus is focused on the strength of its Airbus A320 program, the company is likely concentrating its efforts on getting the Airbus A321XLR out to market. The first A321XLR is targeted to enter airline service in 2023. 

The A321XLR is currently the main focus at Airbus. Photo: Airbus

2023 would likely be a good bet when Airbus would launch the A220-500. By then, the air travel industry is expected to have recovered (or else be well on its way to recovery) from the current crisis. In addition, if Airbus launches it early in 2023, it will likely take about two years to get to market and testing– at the soonest. This would target the aircraft to enter commercial service in 2025.

By 2025, airlines are expecting to be in a much better position than they are today with more customers, revenue, and a return to 2019’s levels. Additionally, some of these older 160-seater A320s and 737s will be in their prime age for replacement.

The A220 also does not have the same backlog as the A320neo family, meaning Airbus could get those aircraft out sooner than the A320neos for replacement– a win for customers who would be prizing the additional fuel efficiency and commonality with the A220-100s and -300s.

When do you think Airbus will launch the A220-500? Do you think there should be an A220-500? Let us know in the comments!