Last year, JetBlue had to make a choice to replace their aging Embraer E190 fleet. Would they go with the newer Embraer 195 or switch to the exciting new entrant to the market, the Airbus A220?
Many other carriers are facing the same choice. Qantas is looking to replace its regional domestic fleet (some of which are older than this author), and start-up airlines are looking for creative aircraft to fill gaps in the market dominated by the big three.
Airbus A220-300 information was sourced from the Airbus website.
Embraer E195-E2 information was sourced from the Embraer website.
Why is this choice significant?
Well, let’s look at the A220 first. Originally it was called the C-series, a new jet aircraft from small plane (and many other things) manufacturer, Bombardier.
It was going to revolutionize the industry, a new way of flying in an aircraft built from the ground up with today’s know-how, not built from a 50-year-old design (cough, cough, 737 MAX 8).
But its sale was stopped dead in its tracks, as Boeing filed an anti-competitive injunction against the company (you can see how the A220 compares to the 737 here). For Bombardier to sell the aircraft in the USA (obviously a huge market), they would have to sell each unit at more than the list price… well over the possible cost of multiple 737 aircraft.
In steps Airbus. They bought 51% of the C-series, renamed it the A220 and started to build/complete construction at their Mobile Alabama facility. The A220 was now ‘American Made’ and free to be sold as a domestic product.
They had the means and now had Boeing in their sights.
Not to be outdone, Boeing looked at the market and saw another aircraft company building a rival to Bombardier/Airbus – Embraer. Quicky, Boeing signed an agreement with Embraer to take control of its commercial aircraft and start to sell it as part of the Boeing line up.
With both Boeing and Airbus now having small commercial planes (under 150 seats) on their books, it was time for them to go head to head.
What are the key differences between the aircraft?
The two aircraft that we will be looking at today are the A220-300 and the E195-E2. We will be examining them from a point of view of an airline, looking for an aircraft to fill in our domestic regional routes.
Here are the key statistics in one table.
|Passengers @ 28 inches of pitch||160 seats||146 seats|
|Fuel||17,726 kg||13,690 kg|
|Cost||$89.5 million USD||$60.4 million USD|
Looking at passengers we can see that the A220 can carry more than the E195-E2 in a maximum configuration. At a more generous 32″ of leg room, that number is still 141 passengers. Simply put, the A220 is better at carrying more paying customers.
What about passenger experience?
Before we move onto the next category, we should discuss passenger experience. By all reports, the A220 is actually configured with plenty of generous leg room, great cabin humidity and plenty of modern comforts. There is even a window in the toilet.
The Embraer E195-E2, on the other hand, has a staggered seating in business class, passengers are always in rows of 2 (not 3 like the A220) and there are configurations for first, business and economy cabins all on one flight.
Looking at the raw numbers, we can see that the A220-300 can easily fly further than the E195-E2.
It’s range is more than 1000 km greater, and thus it is a clear winner.
Fuel capacity / efficiency
Did you know that both planes use the same engine? Specifically, they both use the Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1500G geared turbofan engines.
Thus, how they burn fuel and power their aircraft really comes down to construction and engineering. The fact that the A220 can fly further on the same engine is rather telling… but the E195-E2 carries less fuel. And fuel is money.
Looking at the numbers above, you can see that the A220 is $20 million more than the E195-E2. This means for every three A220s you buy, you could have bought an extra E195-E2.
These days, airlines are sliding towards smaller plans that fly more frequently, giving passengers more choice when it comes to time.
Now, the actual cost gets a little hazy. For example, it is likely that the A220 didn’t cost Delta a thing (just the costs rather than profit) just to be a launch customer in America. So take these figures with a grain of salt.
Which is best?
Looking at the above, we have painted a very clear picture.
On one side, we have the A220-300. It flies further with more passengers. A profit maker and a perfect aircraft for a full-service carrier that wants the very best.
But on the other side, we have the E195-E2. It is cheaper to run and cheaper to fly. It carries almost the same number of passengers, and it can fly 4/5th of the same distance. If you are a low-cost carrier, then the E2 is perfect for you.
As for JetBlue… they went with the Airbus A220. In the end, they felt it was the right aircraft for them.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.