features Where Airbus’s A220 stands in terms of orders and performance

Amidst the chaos of travel restrictions and border closures, Airbus’s A220 has stood out. Here’s a look at where the A220 program stands in terms of new orders, operational insights, production rates, and its departure from Bombardier.
Avatar for Frederick K. Larkin By Frederick K. Larkin | February 17, 2022

Estimated reading time 13 minutes, 23 seconds.

After the World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020, governments around the globe enforced travel restrictions, including border closures and quarantines. Airlines experienced significantly lower passenger traffic and, of course, horrendous financial results. In response, carriers reduced frequencies, discontinued routes, and abandoned smaller markets. Fleets were downsized through the storage of surplus aircraft, the premature retirement of older models, the deferral of new aircraft deliveries, and the cancellation of aircraft orders.

The Airbus A220 features 100-150 seats (depending on the model and cabin configuration), a 3,400-nautical-mile range, and impressive fuel efficiency. Patrick Cardinal Photo

Amidst the chaos, the Airbus A220 stood out. With an appropriate seat capacity (100-150 seats, depending on the model and cabin configuration), a 3,400-nautical-mile range, and impressive fuel efficiency (25 percent less than previous generation aircraft), it proved to be the right aircraft for the times. Two years later, traffic levels are gradually rebounding with the availability of Covid-19 vaccines and the easing of travel restrictions.

More good news for Airbus is that today, the A220 family is continuing to meet its operators’ expectations and interest in the program has continued to grow. During the 12 months since Jan. 30, 2021, 48 aircraft (45 A220-300s and three A220-100s) were delivered. Thanks to an inflow of 50 orders (38 A220-300s and 12 A220-100s) during that period, the backlog has remained stable.

Total A220 orders and deliveries are provided in the table here:

Numbers as of Jan. 18, 2022.

New Operators

From the latter half of 2021 to date, four airlines have received their first A220s — the first being Air France. The French flag carrier received its first A220-300 on Sept. 29, 2021, and took delivery of its sixth example on Dec. 20. In addition to 60 firm orders for the type, Air France holds options for another 30 units and purchase rights for an additional 30 aircraft. Fifteen aircraft are slated to arrive during 2022 alone. The airline says that the A220 will ultimately make up close to 60 percent of its medium-haul fleet, alongside its remaining A320s and A321s.

Next is Breeze Airways. The Cottonwood Heights, Utah-based start-up has ordered 80 A220-300s. While it expects to initiate A220 service during the second quarter of 2022, the airline’s first example was delivered to Tampa, Florida, from Airbus’s Mobile, Alabama, plant on Dec. 17, 2021. Breeze’s A220s are configured with 36 J-class seats and 90 Y-class seats.

Following Breeze is Air Senegal. The first of the airline’s eight A220-300s arrived at its Dakar base on Dec. 29, 2021. The aircraft is leased from Carlyle Aviation Partners of Miami, Florida, and marks Carlyle’s first A220, too.

Breeze Airways has ordered 80 A220-300s. The airline’s first example (pictured) was delivered to Tampa, Florida, on Dec. 17, 2021. Breeze Airways Photo

Most recently, Iraqi Airways took delivery of its first of five A220-300s on Jan. 9, 2022. The Baghdad-based national airline chose a cabin configuration with 12 J-class seats and 120 Y-class seats. It has options for an additional 11 units.

New Orders

In recent months, two airlines and two aircraft leasing companies became A220 buyers.

First, Ibom Airline, operating as Ibom Air, augmented its fleet of Bombardier CRJ900s with a pair of A220-300s in June 2021, when they were leased from Egyptair. On Nov. 16, 2021, the airline announced a firm order for 10 A220s, including seven A220-100s and three A220-300s. The Akwa Ibom State-owned carrier began operations on June 8, 2019, and today serves six cities within Nigeria. Given that Nigeria has both the largest population and the largest economy of any African nation, Ibom Air is anticipating impressive future growth within Nigeria and beyond. 

As of late January 2022, there were 187 A220s in service with 14 airlines on four continents. Frederick K. Larkin Photo

Italia Trasporto Aereo, operating as ITA Airways — which replaced Alitalia as Italy’s flag carrier in October 2021 — announced an order for seven A220-100s on Dec. 1, 2021. These aircraft are expected to provide the airline with cost-effective capacity, as it establishes its presence across Europe.

Next, Aviation Capital Group — the wholly-owned subsidiary of Tokyo Century Corporation of Tokyo, Japan — signed a Memorandum of Understanding for 20 A220s on Dec. 30, 2021. The specific models were not identified, but will likely be announced when they become firm orders. Today, Aviation Capital Group has a fleet of approximately 400 owned, managed, and committed aircraft that are leased to approximately 90 airlines in more than 40 countries.      

Lastly, Azorra Aviation Holdings — the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based aircraft lessor — announced an order for 22 A220s on Jan. 10, 2021. These included 20 A220-300 airliners and a pair of ACJ TwoTwenty jets. That corporate variant of the A220-100 features a six-zone cabin and five supplemental fuel tanks that should enable the aircraft to travel 5,650 nautical miles (10,500 kilometers) in 12 hours.

Speaking of the ACJ TwoTwenty, the first example was delivered from the Airbus Canada plant at Mirabel, Quebec, to the Comlux completion facilities in Indianapolis, Indiana, in early January 2022. After having its customized interior, long-range fuel tanks, and avionics installed, it is to be delivered in early 2023 as “9H-FIVE” to FIVE Holdings of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The Airbus ACJ TwoTwenty is the corporate variant of the A220-100. The first example (pictured) was delivered to Comlux in Indianapolis, Indiana, in January 2022. Airbus Photo

Operational Insights

In order to learn how effective A220s have been during the past year and how they are being utilized, Skies approached three key operators of the aircraft.

Naturally, we looked to Swiss International Air Lines, which became the type’s first operator when it took delivery of its first A220-100 on June 30, 2016. At the time, the aircraft was known as the Bombardier CS100, part of the C Series family.

(It’s important to note the C Series/A220 program’s background here. In July 2018, Airbus took a 50.01 percent stake in Bombardier’s C Series program, meaning it had control of the program. Investissement Quebec held 16.4 percent, while Bombardier held the remaining 33.6 percent. But in February 2020, Bombardier let go of the C Series program entirely to focus on becoming a pure play business jet company, giving Airbus a 75 percent share in the program, and Investissement Quebec the remaining 25 percent. Airbus rebranded the Bombardier CS100 as the A220-100, and the larger CS300 as the A220-300. Today, there is no relationship between Airbus and Bombardier relating to the A220.)

Swiss International Air Lines became the first operator of the A220-100 in June 2016. At the time, the aircraft was known as the Bombardier C Series. Andy Cline Photo

Now, back to Swiss International Air Lines.

In late May 2017, Swiss became the first airline to operate both variants of Airbus’s A220 when it received its first A220-300. Today, it has nine A220-100s and 21 larger A220-300s in its fleet.

Swiss spokesperson Marco Lipp told Skies that while all 30 of its A220s have been flying during the pandemic, their daily utilization has declined due to the lower traffic levels. For example, their average daily flight time was 7.4 hours during July 2019. That number was down to 5.1 during November 2021. He noted that the aircraft are deployed on routes as long as 1,741 nm (3,225 km) and as short as 78 nm (145 km).

Asked about the A220’s dependability, Lipp said, “The dispatch reliability has been around 99 percent during the past 12 months, which is extremely high for a relatively new aircraft.”

As far as the customers’ response to the aircraft, he noted that “reported highlights from the passengers are the brightness of the cabin, due to the large windows, and the two-by-three seating arrangement that reduces the number of middle seats.”

AirBaltic became the initial operator of the A220-300 when its first example was delivered in November 2016. Patrick Cardinal Photo

In northern Europe, airBaltic became the initial operator of the A220-300 when its first example was delivered on Nov. 29, 2016. Today, airBaltic is the only carrier with a fleet solely consisting of A220-300s. Moreover, it currently operates the largest fleet of the type with 32 in service and another 18 on order.

AirBaltic’s Alise Bethere told Skies that the carrier is using all of its aircraft, although the daily utilization has declined due to the pandemic. Before Covid-19, the airline was operating some of its aircraft for up to 18 hours per day. Today, it is flying the A220s on routes as long as 2,562 nm (4,745 km) and as short as 123 nm (228 km).

In terms of the aircraft’s cost effectiveness and reliability, Bethere, who is head of corporate communication at airBaltic, said the introduction of the A220-300 “has been very successful and provided the additional efficiency any airline is seeking in the highly competitive aviation market. The aircraft has provided a high level of dispatch reliability.”

How are airBaltic’s customers reacting to the airplane? “The feedback we receive from passengers is overwhelmingly positive,” said Bethere. “With the larger windows, window seats are the most popular selection among passengers.”

In March 2021, Air Canada unveiled an A220-300 with its retro Trans-Canada Air Lines livery. Photo by Brodie Meeres

Lastly, we can’t forget about Canada’s flag carrier. Air Canada took delivery of its first A220-300 on Dec. 23, 2019, and brought it into service on Jan. 16, 2020. Today, the company has 27 in service with another eight on firm order. As well, it has said that it may eventually take another 10 units that were deferred in November 2020.

Air Canada’s Peter Fitzpatrick told Skies that the company has been operating all of its A220s throughout the pandemic. Given the A220’s seat capacity (12 business class and 125 economy class seats) and range capability, the A220-300 has proven to be very effective in an environment of uncertain traffic demand. For example, the airline has been deploying its A220s on routes as long as 2,206 nm (4,085 km), like Montreal to San Francisco, and as short as 197 nm (365 km), like Toronto to Ottawa. Daily utilization of its A220 fleet is averaging six hours.

When asked if the A220’s dispatch reliability has been acceptable, Fitzpatrick said, “With any new aircraft design, technical issues do arise. As well, there is a learning curve to reach optimum deployment. In this context, we are satisfied with the learning progression and improvement rate for the A220 fleet, with no issues that are affecting our schedule.”

Demand vs Supply

By late January 2022, there were 187 A220s in service with 14 airlines on four continents. The current monthly production rate is five aircraft – four from the facility at Mirabel and one from the plant in Mobile. The U.S. production is for domestic customers.

C-GJYA, an Air Canada A220-300, marks the airline’s first arrival of the type in Curacao. Patrick Lalande Photo

Given the increasing level of interest in the A220, what about its availability? Airbus Canada’s Annabelle Duchesne told Skies that the overall production rate is expected to increase by 20 percent to six units per month during early 2022. Airbus forecasts A220 production will gradually rise to the maximum rate of 10 units per month at Mirabel and four per month at Mobile by 2025.

With the potential for an even larger model, the A220-500, later this decade, Canadian aerospace’s flagship has a very exciting future.

To see Airbus’s full-year 2021 results, click here.

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