Will Airbus Expand The A220 Family?

Airbus has struck gold with their A220 series aircraft. As such, many industry experts are wondering if Airbus will use this boost in popularity to expand the A220 family from more than just two variants.

A220-300
What other variants could Airbus build with the A220 design? Photo: Airbus

How popular is the A220 series?

Currently, Airbus has over 550 orders for the Bombardier-built aircraft. Only 78 have been delivered, but this quantity of orders essentially guarantees a minimum production run of a decade or more.

Airbus offers the smaller 135 seater A220-100 alongside the larger A220-300, which can seat 160 passengers. They fly to a range of 3,400 nmi (6,300 km) and 3,350 nmi (6,200 km) respectively.

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The airlines that have ordered the most A220s are:

  • Delta was the North America launch customer of the type. With 95 on order (45 A220-100s and 50 larger A220-300s), they have found them very useful for regional filler routes, and have received high praise from customers flying onboard.
  • Start-up airline Moxy has 60 A220-300s on order and plans to deploy them regional airport to regional airport (and thus skipping hubs) across North America.
  • airBaltic plans to become a completely all Airbus A220-300 airline, with 50 orders on the way.
  • Air Canada has 45 orders of the A220-300.
  • Lufthansa was the launch customer of the smaller type in Europe, ordering 30 for Swiss International Air Lines.
  • Jetblue has a firm order for 60 A220-300 aircraft.

With so many customers, would it be possible that other versions of the A220 could be built?

air vanuatu airbus a220
Air Vanuatu will be the only airline in the South Pacific flying the A220. Source: Air Vanuatu

What future models could be built?

According to soon-to-be all A220-300 air Baltic CEO Martin Gauss, “We are happy with the current aircraft [A220-300] as it is today, and when something new is in development we will look at it”.

And there are a few rumored variants of the A220 that might be built in the future.

The first is the A220-500. This is a further stretch of the A220-100 frame to accommodate up to 200 passengers. It will likely fly a shorter range than the other two A220s as it will be heavier, carrying more passenger and fuel.

Another version of the A220 that might be built is a sub-100 model. Essentially, there is a gap in the market for tiny aircraft (up to 100 seats) that Airbus could use a shrunken A220 to fill. This aircraft would be classed as an A220-50, much like the A318 is a second shrink of the A319 and A320 (original).

A318
Airbus A318 vs Airbus A220-100. Photo: Simple Flying

Will it be built?

Thus far, Airbus has made it clear that they don’t intend to build any new variants in the next 12-months as they first need to ensure that the production of the original 500 A220s goes as smoothly as possible.

“In the next 12 months, Airbus will not launch the A220-500. Before embarking on expansion projects of the A220 family, Airbus must first solve its productivity problems.”2019 Paris Air Show, Airbus Statement

There is also the elephant in the room regarding the A220 and its bigger brother the A320 series. The A220-300 starts to encroach on the A319, and any bigger variant would place it within shooting distance of the A320 series. Whilst both aircraft have different roles, sales might be cannibalized from each type as airlines are forced to choose (rather than buy both).

What do you think? What other future A220 variants can you imagine? Let us know in the comments.

28 comments
  1. No. I think Airbus would be wiser to invest in creating a better competitor against the 787. That is a much more interesting marketsegment.

    1. The real gold Airbus got in buying Bombardier C-Series is a plane they would have never designed, because of internal politics.

      Airbus internal politics required a crappier plane. Just like what Boeing is planning to buy.

      The a220-500 will probably come. But not until Airbus fully sees the a220 as “their” plane.

      This is a case where “not invented here”, was the true gold.

  2. Now that I am thinking about it, they probably start investing in a completely new airframe that can replace the a220 and the a320 with a flexible design within 15 to 20 years. The NMA of Boeing will be extremely competitive and they really need to have an offer that can compete with that.

    1. Why would they replace the A220? It’s a brand new state of the art composite aircraft. This isn’t a 737 with a basic fuselage design going back to the 50s.

      1. Also, the NMA (if it ever arrives) is not competing at this end of the market.

        What I’d like to see if the NMA is launched, is for Airbus to do the A220-500 to take over from the A320, and they can build a new aircraft starting at the A321 size and above to tackle the NMA. Of course as the article mentions, and stretch of the A220 will result in range reduction, which isn’t all that good considering how the range of narrow bodies have been steadily increasing.

  3. Stretch, yes. But only once Airbus ramps up production to meet the demand of a new version.

    A220-100 with 125 seats (2-class) or 140 (1-class)
    A220-300 with 145 seats (2-class) or 160 (1-class)
    A220-500 with 165 seats (2-class) or 180 (1-class)

    Plus it could allow Airbus to build a bigger A320 series replacement.

    As for a shrink, no. It could end up like the A318 where the regional jets like E175-E2 or MRJ Spacejet are more efficient in the 80-100 seat segment, being purpose built for this market.

    I believe the A220-300 is the base model so two fuselage shrinks may be to many to keep it efficient.

    1. Yes the a220-300 is the base model. -100 and -500 were in the initial design concept.

      Confusion arose because the -100 rolled off the assembly line before the -300.

  4. Apart from stretching it longitudinally, there’s also an option to expand it in all directions until the fuselage is as wide as that of an A320, and put more powerful engines on it…and you then have a next-generation replacement for the A320 family when the time is right.
    Personally, I can’t see a shrinkage as being viable: the A318 was never really a success, and there might be a lesson to learn from that.

    1. It’s almost as wide as an A320 as it is. The cabin width on the A320 is the fuselage width on the A220. I guess that’s why it appears so spacious.

  5. They have to make the -100 and -300 profitably first (as they say).
    Then, they can look at the -500, or maybe an ultra long range version, like a mini A321xlr

  6. Your article is missing information and has inaccurate info. Republic will not be getting the 220. Those orders were taken up in the Delta order. Republic operates regional aircraft for mainline carriers and scope clauses in pilot contracts restrict the seating capacity allowed. The most seats Republic can have is 76 so a 220 will not be going there.

    Also you left out that Jetblue Airways has firm orders for 70 220-300 aircraft with options for 50 more. Deliveries to begin next year.

  7. The A220-500 is the bride in waiting. Had Bombardier retained the program, it would have been rolled out sooner as there are plans sitting on computers in Mirabel. Now that Airbus has control of the project, it will be pushed back until the backlog of A320’s start to get filled and then rolled out as the clean sheet replacement with a bigger wing, fuselage plugs, bigger tanks and perhaps an up-rated pair of geared PW engines. Airbus will not risk cannibalising the A320 order book.

    As far as a shrink goes – history has shown that shrinks aren’t nearly as successful as stretches, so no. Anyways, as shown by the Embraer E2 jet, you need a regional to get under the scope clause (what is it 70 seats?) to get into the feeder network, otherwise you have to build it for the mainline companies. And it in that case, the benchmark is now 140 seats (exit limit) going 6,300 KM – which can take you over the Atlantic, in a very quiet, roomy cabin.

  8. Republic will not be getting the 220. They are restricted to operate aircraft with 76 seats or less in most cases by scope clauses at the major airlines.

    JetBlue has firm orders for 70 220-300 aircraft with options for 50 more. Deliveries begin next year.

  9. Maybe weird idea but I would think A220 500 in 165seat (2-class) as above but drop A318 and A319 and focus on A321 Stretch (A322) in 220 (2-class) and 250 (1-class) with new wing A320/A321/A322 That should give Airbus much coverage in the single aisle market and 6 options to airlines to suit requirements.

    1. Currently Airbus only owns 50% of the A220/C-Series. I’m sure they prefer to sell A319/A320s where they own 100% of the program and therefore 100% of the profits.

  10. Boeing trying to take Bombardier out of the game has seriously back fired for them and Airbus got a clean-sheet aircraft in a segment they were not that much into for a song. Well done Boeing!

    Great plane at the right time. Look for future improvements but yes Jones, it’s probably the twin aisle area that needs attention in the short term. The A350 trying to cover both 787 and 777 has been moderately successful but as my school report often stated,’Airbus has done well but could do better!’

  11. no mention of this previous Boeing Brazil E-Jet brand, specifically the E195-E2 vs Airbus A220. https://simpleflying.com/embraer-e2-vs-airbus-a220/ . your readers might review that discussion! In conclusion, “The E190 beats the A220-100, but the A220-300 beats the E195. When it comes to technicals, I think we can agree that it’s a draw. But if you are looking to buy and want to get bang for your buck, the newer E2 range of aircraft might be just what you are looking for.”

    1. While everyone has an opinion on which is ‘better’, the only thing that really matters in the aircraft manufacturing game, is sales. The L-1011 was a great aircraft, ahead of it’s time, but flopped because no one bought it.

      The A220 Program has firm orders for 556 aircraft.
      The E2 family has firm orders for 186 aircraft.
      The A319Neo has firm order for 35 aircraft.
      The 737 Max 7 has firm orders for 60 aircraft.

      Opinions aside, methinks the airlines have decided, at this point.

  12. I was under the impression that the wing was actually optimized for the A220-500, so a stretch would not be a lot of work.

    I suspect that it will happen eventually, because A220 customers will want it.

    What works for the A220 similarly to the 787 is the range. The trend will be towards longer range smaller aircraft. If you can do the flight while minimizing the number of marginally priced seats, everything is better.

    No, to a shrink.

  13. I don’t believe the fuselage width of A220 is the same as that of the A320. The Bombardier C Series was designed for 5 abreast seating , with comfortable seating . Compare with 787 , designed for 8 abreast and now basically very cramped 9 abreast, similarly 777 from 9 abreast to cattle class 10 abreast. I think Airbus have discontinued 318 and the 319 neo has not been a success; it looks quite likely that A220 could replace A319 at the lower end of the 320 family.

    1. You misread: what was said was that the (internal) CABIN width on the A320 is the (external) FUSELAGE width on the A220.

  14. Apparently, Bombardier had designed the CSeries from the beginning to have a flexible/stretchable design, just like it’s targeted prey, the venerable DC-9/MD-80/90 series. 5 seats across, twin engine, rubber-band variable lengths, up to 5 (five!) models for the CS-now-A220 airframe. See attached images previously taken from Bombardier and vendor sites:

    100-300-500 Series
    https://images.app.goo.gl/6WQxtiiKs7dn7Csq8

    100-300-500-700-900 Series
    https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fpbs.twimg.com%2Fmedia%2FDFqVPASXUAIZpkw.jpg%3Alarge&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fsylvainfaust%2Fstatus%2F890187988222828544&docid=GhvTSQlFvxF-BM&tbnid=xlX8FSaXlymK_M%3A&vet=1&w=648&h=777&bih=612&biw=360&ved=2ahUKEwjeufT8xK3jAhWmdt8KHS8lA84QxiAoAXoECAEQHw&iact=c&ictx=1

    There is also an additional image (thumbnail image – now available only in PhotoBucket) that shows the 5 model lineup and it’s targeted market:
    https://images.app.goo.gl/eiE4cGVuFAHVFRoaA

    This whole topic of CSeries/A220 models has been discussed for well over a year now, so what models will actually built and/or abandoned now that the program is in Airbus’s control is clearly their Board’s and customer’s decision, as muddled as that may get.

    1. This is super exciting for the airlines industry! A 500 needs to come sooner in my opinion – Airlines have to be struggling to think the 737 Max (or the rebranded Max) is a long-term stable for their fleets. I love the idea of Airbus having the A220 as a regional up to mainline jet offering or the A320 as a mainline up to international route opener with the A321xlr. Loads of flexibility and why not create a opions within the one brand.

      Get the A220-500 out fast and see the movement from 737 Max! Yes production issues need to be sorted but start getting orders for an aircraft designed and right for this century.

      1. Totally agree! I think the A220-500 would be a great craft. Having been on both, the A220 cabin is far roomer than the 737

  15. What people miss here is aircraft type rating. No airline having over 100+ A320 family would plan to add A220 in it’s fleet unless the order is min of 75 aircrafts. For less than that, it’s not economical to have different pilots & engineers. Also, A220 has engine issues for flying in high altitude airports & high temp. That’s why it has got almost no orders from Asia, including regional LCCs. In coming time, Airbus would simply incorporate patented tech of CS into it’s A320 family & build far more advanced version of existing A320neo with same pilot rating & avionics. Also production cost for several spares is more than double for A220 over A320. Orders were given by Delta as it got lot of aircrafts at almost throwaway prices.
    Looking at A321LR, A321XLR demand Airbus would prefer to spend more money, time & resources to upgrade existing A320neo family than A220, atleast unless it owns 100% CS program.

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