Airbus has delivered its 10th U.S-made A220 from its assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama. The manufacturing giant delivered the A220-300 to JetBlue yesterday, with the airline receiving the second of 70 A220s it has on order.
Airbus reaches a milestone
The A220 delivered yesterday to JetBlue represents a significant milestone for Airbus. It is the 10th A220 the company has delivered which was assembled on U.S soil at its factory in Mobile, Alabama. The plane (registration: N3023J) is the second A220 in JetBlue’s fleet after the carrier received its first U.S-made A220 in December.
We have delivered our 10th U.S.-made #A220 aircraft from our Mobile, Alabama manufacturing facility. It’s also the second A220 delivery for @JetBlue, which just this week started A220 operations between @BostonLogan and @FlyTPA. Time sure does fly! (Along with our planes!) pic.twitter.com/QUCXRKnK7n
— Airbus in the U.S. (@AirbusInTheUS) April 28, 2021
JetBlue’s A220-300 fleet will offer 140 seats in economy, 30 of which will be ‘Even More Space’ seats, in a 2-3 layout. The delivery comes at a good time for JetBlue, which introduced its first A220 into service this week. The plane (registration: N3008J) flew from Boston to Tampa on Monday and offers up to a 30% lower cost per seat than JetBlue’s Embraer E190 fleet.
The other U.S-built A220s
The first U.S-made A220 delivery went to Delta Air Lines in October 2020. The jet (registration: N302DU) was the first A220 to depart Airbus’ Mobile assembly factory, which first started producing the A220 in August 2019. Delta was also the recipient of the second (N303DU), third (N305DU), fourth (N304DU) and fifth (N306DU) A220s out of Mobile.
JetBlue’s first A220 (N3008J) was the sixth to be assembled and delivered in the U.S. Delta received another three planes (N307DU, N301DU and N308DU) before JetBlue had the honor of taking Airbus’ 10th U.S-built A220 delivery yesterday.
U.S-assembled A220s delivered so far:
- Delta Air Lines – 8
- JetBlue – 2
Airbus’s facility at Mobile, Alabama is 270,000-square-foot and began producing A220s in August 2019. By May 2020, the Mobile factory doubled in size as Airbus completed its A220 final assembly line (FAL). The site can assemble both A220-100 and A220-300 jets, becoming the second dedicated A220 assembly line after Airbus’ primary facility in Mirabel, Canada.
The A220 order book
According to Airbus, there are almost 650 outstanding A220 orders, with 90 A220-100 and 559 A220-300 planes on order. The company managed to deliver a total of 72 planes in March (A220, A320, and A350 family jets). JetBlue has a firm order for 70 A220-300s which are set to replace the airline’s fleet of E190s, of which it has 60 in total.
JetBlue is Airbus’ biggest customer for the A220 in terms of upcoming orders with 70, with the carrier receiving just two so far. The third A220-300 is expected for delivery in May this year. Other major customers awaiting delivery include:
- Breeze Airways, David Neeleman’s new startup, has ordered 60 A220-300s.
- Air France also has 60 A220-300s on order.
- AirBaltic, Air Lease Corp (ALC) and Delta Air Lines have 50 A220-300s on order each.
- Air Canada has ordered 45 A220-300s.
- Delta Air Lines has 45 A220-100s on order.
What do you think of the A220-300? Do you think JetBlue’s all-economy configuration on the A220 is ideal for its network? Let us know your thoughts and insights in the comments.
The A321XLR Could Change The Shape Of Long Haul Flying Forever
The rise of the long-haul narrowbody is set to get hotter as the A321XLR nears entry into service. Executive Chairman of Air Lease Corporation (ALC) Steve Udvar-Hazy believes that, should the model be a success, it could see airlines downgauging more services for increased flexibility.
Big is no longer beautiful
The events of 2020 have seen the rapid demise of the world’s biggest widebodies. As airlines phase out their biggest planes at the top, the market remains strong for the capable long-range narrowbody at the other end. Speaking at CAPA Live yesterday, Executive Chairman of Air Lease Corporation (ALC) Steve Udvar-Hazy noted how the market has changed in the recent past. He said,
“The widebody situation has changed a lot. For a while there was this fear in the airline industry … that at major international hub airports like Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and so forth, there would be slot restrictions. And the only way an airline can grow is to have a larger gauge at each departure. That led to the A380, the 747-8 – big was the way to go.”
He noted that, now, the pendulum has somewhat swung the other way. Airlines are now seeking more flexibility, easier to fill aircraft and more economical operations. While he noted that it remains to be seen how long this trend continues, for now, it’s a boon for smaller widebodies like the 787, but, he said, “…it’s certainly been a setback for Airbus and also for the 777X.”
ALC has some 400 orders in with aircraft manufacturers. Of those, the vast majority are narrowbodies, with less than 30 widebody orders in place. It’s a sign of the times that a major lessor like ALC has less faith in the future demand for widebodies, and conversely its focus on new generation narrowbody aircraft.
The XLR could change everything
ALC has bet big on the Airbus narrowbody development. While it still has outstanding orders for eight more A320neo from its 28-plane order, its orderbook for the A321neo is substantial. To date, the lessor has ordered 182 of the large narrowbody aircraft, with 126 of those still to be delivered. At least 27 of those will be the forthcoming A321XLR.
Udvar-Hazy noted that the future of long-haul flying could be changed forever if aircraft like the XLR prove to be a success. He said,
“If those airplanes catch on and can operate more of these sectors that are near six, seven, eight hours, and operate maybe higher frequencies with a more flexible schedule compared to a widebody, that will change the whole pattern of what’s going on, for example, in the North Atlantic, between the US and Latin America, between Europe and parts of Africa and intra-Asia.”
The XLR won’t begin entering service until 2024, but Udvar-Hazy believes it could see a seismic shift in long-haul operations. While noting that it is yet to prove itself in the real world, he said,
“If they [the A321LR and A321XLR] prove to be successful, it does mean that some airlines will downgauge and reduce their risk.”
ALC has plenty of experience in the long-haul narrowbody market. It introduced the A321LR for Aer Lingus, which the airline substituted the A330 with on its transatlantic routes. SAS recently took its first A321LR from ALC, which it will fly to Boston from Copenhagen and could launch routes like Stockholm to New York with the same. The ALC boss believes the LR and the XLR are set to be great planes, with little competition, that could become the firm favourite for some longer routes. He said,
“Particularly in the wintertime, in the off season, it’s a good airplane that fills the mission. So, I think we’re going to see more of this … Boeing doesn’t really have a product that can compete with that right now, so it’s an interesting market between the single aisle and the widebodies.”
What do you think about the future of the A321XLR? Will it change the long-haul market for good? Let us know in the comments.
Jumbo Future: The Boeing 777X Has 320 Orders So Far
Although the aircraft is still around two years away from entering service, Boeing has racked up 320 orders for the new 777X. According to Boeing’s order book, the largest number order is the 115 aircraft ordered by Emirates. We’ve taken a closer look at the current and possible future 777X orders.
The newest variant of the best-selling 777 widebody family, the 777X, is already proving popular with airlines worldwide. According to Boeing’s list of unfulfilled orders, 320 aircraft have been ordered already. The next-generation aircraft includes the 777-8 and 777-9 variants.
At the end of last year, the manufacturer already had 309 firm orders, but this has jumped to 320 in the last few months. However, this doesn’t mean any new orders have come in. Previously, Singapore Airlines was only going to take 20 new 777X, but the airline increased this to 31 in February by switching from 14 787-10 Dreamliners to an additional 11 777X.
In addition to the 115 which will join Emirates’ fleet, 60 will head to Qatar Airways, and 25 will go to Etihad. A further 20 each will join ANA and Lufthansa, with 21 going to Cathay Pacific. Boeing will deliver 18 777X to British Airways, and the remaining ten are for an unidentified customer or customers.
Are problems at an end?
The 777X has been faced with problems and delays for several years now. First, development took longer than expected. Then, the global pandemic has meant deliveries have been deferred, and global demand is low. The program’s delays have meant airlines interested in the 777X have switched or placed orders for Dreamliners to meet growing demands.
However, the delays may now be a good thing. According to the previous schedule, the first 777Xs would have headed straight for storage during the travel restrictions of last year. Now, when the first aircraft is finally rolled off the production line, it should enter service.
However, delays are still being reported. The earliest delivery is now looking like 2023. But most airlines are suggesting the bulk of deliveries won’t happen until 2024 or 2025. For many airlines, that gives them more time to recover from the financial impact of the pandemic. However, if recovery is swift and demand grows, and the planes still aren’t ready, Boeing may seem the 320-strong orders drop.
More or fewer orders?
While the delays may be welcomed by some airlines, other airlines have voiced concern. Emirates President Tim Clark confirmed he has spoken to Boeing about the possibility that delays could be as late as 2025.
Emirates plans to use the new 777Xs to replace some of its older A380s. If the airline wants to recover well over the next years but won’t receive its new aircraft until around 2025, it could modify its order. There is also a rumor that Cathay Pacific could slash its order for 21 777X by half.
However, demand for the long-awaited 77X remains strong. It appears as if Lufthansa and Qatar Airways are vying for the position as the launch customer. Each airline hoping to get the new aircraft as soon as possible. British Airways also has the option for 24 more of the type, so this could see a small order increase for Boeing.
What do you think of the 777X program? Do you think we will see an increase in orders as the program inches nearer completion? Or will more airlines look to defer, swap, and cancel orders? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.
SmartLynx Airlines Malta to add 5 Airbus A330 freighters
SmartLynx Airlines Malta has announced an important addition to its Airbus fleet. Currently operated Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft, the fleet will be joined by Airbus A330 aircraft type with a goal to become leaders of long-haul market.
5 Airbus A330 aircraft will be modified to Zero LOPA by removing passenger seats and preparing aircraft for cargo flights. The planes are planned to be added to SmartLynx Airlines’ fleet during May and June.
According to IATA, in April 2021, air cargo demand reached an all-time high and was up 9% compared to pre-COVID levels (Feb 2019). The increased market demand for long-haul cargo operations prompted SmartLynx Airlines to grow their fleet and introduce the modified aircraft, able to transport cargo shipments, including vaccines and medical supplies, on long-haul flights.
The global aircraft leasing platform CDB Aviation will be leasing out several Airbus A330 aircraft to SmartLynx Airlines.
The updated A330 aircraft will carry cargo for existing and future clients to and from Asia, USA and Europe, with a volume capacity of 260 m3 and a maximum cargo weight of 50,000 kg.
Earlier this year, SmartLynx Airlines has already showed its flexibility and forward-thinking attitude, making the necessary Zero LOPA modifications on two of the fleet’s A321 units to meet the growing demand for cargo transportation and became one of the first carriers to introduce A321F to operations.
Alaska Airlines announces fleet expansion and new route
Seattle-based carrier, Alaska Airline has confirmed that it is ordering more aircraft from Boeing and Embraer. In addition to aircraft which are already on order, Alaska Airlines stated that it now plans to add a total of 30 additional mainline and regional aircraft to its fleet. The airline has also announced that it plans to operate flights to a new international destination for leisure travellers.
Like the majority of US carriers, Alaska expects domestic travel to return to pre-pandemic levels by the summer of next year. This means the carrier will require more aircraft across its route network and is starting to prepare for the influx of travellers, who are eager to get out and travel.
Alaska Airlines decided to take up its option and has placed an additional order with Boeing for 13 Boeing 737 MAX jets, which will be staggered a bit later in 2023 and 2024. “Regional aircraft play a huge role in Alaska’s growing network,” said the Senior Vice President of fleet, finance and alliances, Nat Pieper. “As our network expands, regional aircraft connect smaller communities to our larger hubs providing critical feed to assist in the development of new markets.”
Last December, Alaska and Boeing renegotiated delivery terms for its order of 68 737 MAX aircraft which also includes an option for 52 more aircraft. The airline took delivery of its first 737 MAX aircraft, registered N913AK back in January and is already in commercial revenue service with the airline and expects to continue to receive 737 MAX aircraft as part of the carrier’s order right up until 2024.
The new terms on the deal with Boeing means the carrier is left with 39 options aircraft which it may use from 2023 to 2026. Speaking about the new agreement, Nat Pieper said, “We are excited to exercise options for more 737-9s just months after committing to 68 firm deliveries. It’s another indication that we’re ready for growth.”
Alaska has also placed a tentative order for 17 Embraer 175 aircraft, which will be split between the wholly-owned Horizon Air and SkyWest. Horizon will receive nine Embraer 175s over the next two years, with five scheduled for delivery in 2022 and four in 2023. Meanwhile, all of SkyWest’s aircraft will be delivered in 2022 and are scheduled to strategically arrive when demand begins to ramp up and the requirement for more jets is more prevalent.
In addition to updates to its fleet, Alaska has also announced the opening of a new international leisure destination for travellers. The airline revealed that it will soon operate flights from its west coast hubs to Belize City (BZE) and becomes the carrier’s most recent international destination.
Commented on the new destination, Brett Catlin, Alaska Airlines Vice President of network and alliances for Alaska said “Our guests are eager for more eco-friendly leisure destinations, especially as they get vaccinated, and we’re ready to offer them terrific options. Belize offers an unbeatable mix of sensational beaches, iconic cayes and rich heritage.”
Belize will also mark the fourth country that Alaska flies to and will join countries like Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica. Potential operating schedules and routes to Belize are still yet to be announced, but they are expected to be revealed by early June when tickets go on sale.
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