A Stretched Airbus A220 May Come Sooner Than You Think

The Airbus rumor mill seems to be back in operation as the airframer entices further speculation about an A220 stretch. Airbus’ Chief Commercial Officer has suggested that an Airbus A220-500 is inevitable. But that’s amid Airbus’ attempts to manage expectations and rebuke any suggestion that the aircraft is on its way to production.

A220 family flying
Speculation around a new A220 continues as Airbus says that an A220-500 will definitely come. Photo: Airbus

Not if, but when

It appears that Airbus is no longer shying away from suspicions around a stretch variation of the Airbus A220. The airframer has previously claimed that the development of an Airbus A220-500, the stretched version of the A220 is not a priority at the moment. However, its production continues to be a topic of interest.

On a conference call with French journalists, Reuters reports that the Chief Commercial Officer at Airbus said that the question to be asked regarding the stretched A220 was:

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“not a question of if, but when.”

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And that’s now the question on our lips: when will Airbus let us in on its plans for the A220-500?

It appears Airbus is not denying that it’s thought of developing the stretched A220. However, it continues to be evasive about a timeline. But, why? We know that there is an interest is out there, not least from airBaltic.

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Airbus has had a mightly successful year posting 940 gross orders so far in 2019 which it reports in its latest order and delivery figures. And the A220 continues to be a popular choice. But airlines ordering the aircraft of late are largely opting for the A220-300, the larger of the two versions. Air France-KLM firmed up an order of 60 of these just yesterday (18th December 2019). Clearly, there could be a fairly large appetite for the A220-500.

Airbus A220-300. Could an A220-500 be coming soon?
With the popularity of the A220-300, could an A220-500 be a hit? Photo: Airbus

We contacted Airbus for more information about when we might see A220-500 production. It told Simple Flying:

“As a leading aircraft manufacturer, we are in constant dialogue with our customers and constantly looking at potential ways of improving our products. We are focused on ramping-up and selling our current aircraft models, the A220-100 and the A220-300. The platform has the potential to grow but we are focused on ramping-up the programme and supporting our new customers’ entry-into-service. In the long-term, the platform would evolve according to the Airbus product policy.”

When will Airbus make the leap?

But, despite the interest, would Airbus actually make the leap to bring out the Airbus A220-500 any time soon? Well, we have reason to speculate that it might arrive sooner than previously thought.

In light of the production suspension of Boeing 737 aircraft, it’s likely that an A220-500 would sell well. And with the ending of A380 production, it might well be that Airbus has more room in its schedule to experiment with new aircraft.

However, Airbus really doesn’t have any intention of making the A220-500 its chief concern. It already has a strong market for its current A220 aircraft but, more than that, sales of the A320 family aircraft make up the majority of its orders. At the current moment in time, it seems that the A220-500 would not really make Airbus’ sales much better. In fact, it could hamper already successful aircraft, cannibalizing sales of the A320neo.

Airbus A220-300 and A321
Would Airbus jeopardize the sales of its existing aircraft to make a stretched A220? Photo: Airbus

But if it’s not the success of its existing aircraft that’s at stake, it’s Airbus’ environmental pledge. Besides the development of the A220-500, Airbus has got other new aircraft on its mind. In particular, it is considering more eco-friendly planes that will adhere to carbon neutrality goals for 2030.

Needless to say, Airbus has a plateful of ideas and heaped spoonfuls of speculation to go alongside. But the important thing is that it does have a design it can call upon if it needed to. But now might not quite be the right time.

Do you think Airbus will make the A220-500? When do you think we’ll see it? Let us know in the comments below!

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David C.

There is no doubt that the A220-500 will eventually come into existence. The airframe is a game changer based on its next generation efficiency both with fuel consumption and maintenance cycles. As the A220-300 continues to sell, the demand for fleet/training commonality will come into play. Operators like Air Baltic and Delta have made noise about the 500, Air France as well. And once Moxy/Breeze starts operating, should they be successful they will also want the 500 so that they can compete PAX loading directly with Southwest and JetBlue. Neeleman is a big proponent of fleet commonality and the cost… Read more »

TonytTDK

Given that the A220 is actually a Bombardier design, exactly how much ‘commonality’ is there actually, in terms off taking an A220 because you’ve already got other Airbus products.?

David C.

Fleet commonality comes into play when talking about the current operators of the C Series: Air Baltic and Delta. Air France is set to become an A220-300 operator and they have expressed interest in the 500 model. It also comes into play with Moxy/Breeze as Neeleman ordered the A220-300 exclusively and has hinted at his interest in the 500. Those are the references I am making to fleet commonality. It was not a reference to commonality with Airbus products.

Anonymous

I hope it comes soon. It will no doubt be a success like their A321XLR. I think Airbus should then just hang up the A319.

Joanna Bailey

I think they will.

David C.

They already did..

Reed

Yes build the Airbus A220-500 !!

Aniljak

Airlines are asking for it already and it’s barely on the drawing board!
Airbus will most certainly build it, particularly if these airlines firm up orders
Will probably replace 737s and a320s in many airlines
Airbus will probably drop A320 and make A321 the standard

Cahpek

If Airbus were to go forward with the A220-500, they would most probably be one step ahead of Boeing which have even yet shown they have made any decision what to do for a 737 replacement, even though airlines are clamouring for it. My guess is Airbus management is playing a waiting game, to see what Boeing is doing next in terms of plans to replace the 737. Perhaps, no sooner than Boeing comes up with a 737 replacement, Airbus may counter that with the A220-500. The strength AIrbus have is, they could probably get this plane up and flying… Read more »

Sam Rittler

The A220-500 will be the A320 replacement for sure, but it won’t be around until the late 2020s at least.

David C.

I don’t quite agree with that. If Boeing announces a 737 clean sheet replacement, Airbus will have to respond. Boeing is probably sitting on that since they need the MAX fiasco to play out and to find out if there will be demand for their cash cow once it is back in service. Boeing cannot announce the 737 clean sheet replacement right now because it would effectively doom the MAX line and potentially result in a lot of MAX cancellations. Once it is running again they will need to innovate. Airbus on the other hand has the ability and cash… Read more »

TonytTDK

How long is it that Boeing have been TALKING about a clean-sheet replacement for the 737.?I agree that they can’t announce a replcament without undermining the MAX (more than it already is), but I’m not convinced that there’s actually anything solid to announce anyway. I genuinely can’t see why Boeing wouldn’t have already mentioned an ACTUAL replacement for the 737 if they actually had one, once MAX deliveries began.? Instead, we were treated to yet more TALK about a ‘mythical’ 797 & the concept of a ‘FSA’.! IMO Boeing is still 5-7 Years away from being able to deliver it’s… Read more »

mileduets

With the huge amount of A320 orders and with the MAX struggling it doesn’t look as if cannibalization is a real concern for Airbus at this moment – and in the near future. It’s much more production capacity. By opening up a new production line for a larger A220 variant Airbus can attract customers that would else consider a MAX (once it’s in production again) or a MAX successor. To me it seems like a logical decision to introduce the A220 asap.

Chris

Airbus will launch it as soon as they own 100% of the A220 line.

Noah Bowie

Am I the only one who thinks that Airbus may use the A220 as a base for an all new narrow body aircraft to replace the A320neo. They have the best small mainline jet and with a bit of widening, lengthening, new engines and a few other tweaks here and there, they could have a plane to beat Boeing to replace their mainline jets. I wouldn’t be surprised if Boeing and Airbus are quietly designing all new aircraft in case the 737 Max is unfixable.

David C.

change the fuselage diameter and you change both the commonality and the final assembly line tooling. Change the length and it remains a lot closer to the original parameters. The A220’s diameter is smaller, resulting in a 10′ 9″ (3.27M) width. Ample for 3-2 seating and full sized bins. The A320 has a 12′ 2″ (3.7M) cabin width, and is set for 3-3 seating. That is similar to the 737 line. In addition, the A320 can accept ULD’s. (Standard shipping containers) Both the 737 and the A220 do not. Being able to ship ULD’s means more use for the airlines… Read more »

Bryce

@Noah Bowie
I agree with you. Regardless of whether the A220-500 comes or not, I think that Airbus will use the A220 family as a basis to produce a new 3-3 A320 replacement; after all, if Bombardier pre-digested various aspects for the A220 (composite fuselage, efficient wing, next-gen cockpit), Airbus would be silly not to use that knowledge to revise the A320.

Ken

Can’t imagine how a 5 abreast plane can be more efficient than 6 abreast plane, particularly in terms of space. A320 neo is there to stay

Neil W

The narrower aircraft has a smaller cross section which results in far less drag which means less fuel consumed. The A220-500 will also exhibit further efficiencies as it is a stretch of the basic design (think 757-300). Having said that I don’t see the A220-500 as being a real threat to the A320 – they are still different aircraft with different range, payloads and mission profiles. The A220-500 trades range for payload so it will have less range than the A220-300 Airlines may opt to have both aircraft in their fleets. If an A220-500 poaches a sale from the A320… Read more »

Bryce

@Simple Flying Team
Might it be an idea to write an article on the extent to which narrowbody airframes are used to carry containerized cargo? This is a central factor in discussing whether a 2-3 (A220) or 2-2 (E190) airframe can every truly replace a 3-3 (A320) airframe. We know that the A320 is wide enough to take containerized cargo, but do many airlines actually avail of this facility? LCCs don’t (their turnaround times are too tight), but what about mainstream airlines? And is this an important factor for narrowbody P2F conversions?

James mahon

I think they will wait till they can make good profit margins on the 220-300. When they have that sorted out, they could move to a 400 or 500.
My understanding is the the profit margins on the 220 are a bit thin at present.

Bernie

“a bit thin at present.” This may be true (but not very thin) and decisions for a new version will not place the profit margin as #1 priority.
It will depend upon the B737.

David C.

the C-series is functionally more efficient then both the 737 and the A320 in terms of fuel burn and heavy maintenance cycles. Airlines are opting in for them because they are paying up front for the back end savings. As they sell more, the amortization of the development costs will abate as well. But at the end of the day, is it not better to have a more expensive airplane that has consumer confidence and is not grounded than to have an inexpensive, unstable steel tube with wings that can’t fly revenue trips and most people don’t want to travel… Read more »

Neil W

Nitpick – the 737 is an aluminium tube.

TonytTDK

AFAIK Airbus has 3 assembly facilities for the A320-series.?
Do they have any plans in place to increase this & shorten the lead time, or would the setup costs outweigh the amount of business they’re losing to Boeing because of the long lead times.?

Anonymous

The A220-300 is a neat replacement for the A318… and an eventual -500 would be perfect

Juan Pablo Thomson

An A220-300 only affects the sale of the smaller A319Neo… which is selling very poorly anyway, so the risk of cannibalization of their own market is minimal; Airbus might even offer those clients to switch to the A220-300 or the A320 and forget the A319 altogether. The A220-100 is a perfect match with the A318 Babybus, which is no longer in production, so, again, not much risk there. If airbus sizes the theoretical A220-500 a bit too big, then it might encroach on the market of the A320, so my guess is that it will be a rather modest stretch,… Read more »