Closure of a pair of major A220 orders during the last week of December helped Airbus’s sales team finish an underwhelming 2018 with a flourish. The orders, from JetBlue and the U.S. low-fare start-up code-named Moxy, totaled 120 airplanes—60 from each customer—and marked the first additions to the manufacturer’s A220 backlog since it took control of the former Bombardier C Series program in June. Airbus plans to assemble all the airplanes on a new A220 line in Mobile, Alabama, at the site of the manufacturer’s U.S. A320 production. Schedules call for construction of the new plant to begin this month.
The order from JetBlue, covering 60 A220-300s, closes on a memorandum of understanding signed in July, a day after Airbus announced the rebranding of the Bombardier CS100 and larger CS300 as the A220-100 and -300, respectively. In a presentation on the replacement plan for its Embraer E190 fleet on July 11, JetBlue executive v-p and CFO Steve Priest explained the rationale for the airline’s decision to replace its Embraer E190s with the somewhat larger A220.
“We had to make a very, very difficult decision between two excellent next-generation aircraft,” he said. “While the E190 fleet is relatively young, it will require significant investment into the next decade to be economically viable for us through to its full useful life.”
JetBlue expects to take deliveries of A220-300s from 2020 to 2025. Thirty E190s owned by JetBlue will start leaving the fleet in 2020, followed by another 30 leased E190s in 2023.
Coincidentally, JetBlue founder David Neeleman now leads the new venture temporarily known as Moxy, plans for which call for services to start in 2021. Revealing some of the basic strategy at the Farnborough Air Show in July, Neeleman explained that the airline would serve point-to-point markets not directly connected by competitors such as JetBlue or Southwest Airlines. International services would connect cities in the U.S. with points in Latin America. Neeleman now runs Azul, the Brazilian airline he founded with E195s after leaving JetBlue in 2007. Azul also flies Airbus A320-family jets and holds an order for A330s.
“The A220-300 is the right airplane for a new airline that will be focused on passenger service and satisfaction,” said Neeleman in reference to Moxy. “With a low cost of operation and spacious cabin, the A220 will allow us to provide passengers with lower fares and a high-quality, comfortable flying experience. The A220’s ability to operate profitably in thin, underserved markets across a broad spectrum of ranges is unique.”