After Boeing yields, what’s next for Bombardier CSeries?


March 26, 2018, © Leeham News: With the decision by Boeing to let last week’s deadline go by without filing an appeal in the Bombardier trade complaint, eyes turn to “what’s next” for the CSeries.

Source: Bombardier.

LNC broke the news on Twitter that Boeing would not appeal the 4-0 decision finding it suffered no harm in the 2016 BBD-Delta Air Lines order for 75 CS100s and options for 50 more, with conversion rights to the CS300.


Boeing filed a trade complaint a year later with the US International Trade Commission and the US Department of Commerce.

The ITC found cause to send the case to Commerce, which found for Boeing on its allegations of illegal subsidies and price dumping. Commerce determined that tariffs of 292% were to be levied on airplanes imported from Canada to the US.

The ITC then had to rule Boeing suffered harm with the sale. Industry observers, Bombardier officials and most at Airbus believed the ITC would find for Boeing.

In a stunning move, the ITC ruled unanimously that Boeing suffered no harm because it didn’t compete for the Delta order and the 737-700/7 didn’t compete with the CS100.

Boeing officials nevertheless refused to say whether they would appeal the decision. They had until the end of business March 22 to do so.

The deadline passed quietly and without any announcement from Boeing. LNC was the first to report (via Twitter) that no appeal was filed. Boeing declined to issue a formal statement why.

Boeing spokesmen tried to put a positive spin on the defeat, however, claiming a win of sorts. The groundwork has been laid to refile the complaint should another US sale be made at price-dumping levels.

But with a US plant planned to assemble the CSeries, Airbus and Bombardier say there will be no importation of an “airplane.” It will be made is the USA, they say

What’s next

Airbus recently stated it hopes all regulatory approvals for its acquisition of 50.01% of the CSeries program will be received in advance of the Farnborough Air Show, which begins July 16. Until approvals are received, Airbus and Bombardier can’t discuss marketing, pricing, cost-cutting or anything else of consequence.

Construction planning for the new CSeries final assembly line next to Airbus’ A320 FAL in Mobile (AL) continues, however. Last month, Airbus and Bombardier held an event in Mobile to promote it with local officials.

The market appears to be waiting for the Airbus-BBD deal to close. Bombardier last year announced a letter of intent from an unidentified European airline for 31 firm orders and 30 options for the CSeries. The stated value suggests the airplane is the CS100, but the aircraft type wasn’t specified.

Bombardier officials said they expected the deal to be finalized by the end of the year, but it wasn’t. The customer remains unidentified. Speculation centers on International Airline Group (British Airways), Lufthansa Group and even Air Baltic. The deal still isn’t closed.

Initially, the cloud cast by the Boeing complaint over the CSeries—even though this LOI is a European carrier—was cited by some as a possible reason for delay. Now, it’s perhaps waiting for the Airbus deal to close and possibly getting better terms.

Airbus’ role

Just what Airbus will be able to do once it gains control of the CSeries program is speculative. What is known is that Airbus plans to use its leverage on CSeries suppliers to lower costs. The marketing prowess and worldwide support system Airbus has is assumed and stated to be a big boost for the CSeries.

Beyond these rather broad generalities, however, little is known.

There is no commonality between the CSeries and the A320 family beyond both cockpits use a sidestick. Even the cockpit technologies and the flying “laws” are different, though Bombardier based its cockpit software in part on Airbus—while building in new technology in the process. After all, the A320 entered service in 1988 and the CSeries nearly 30 years later. Changes in the technology are a given.

Embraer is known to believe there isn’t enough gap between the seating of the CS300 and the A320 to justify an airline taking on a new fleet type, the CSeries. Nominally, the two-class seating for the CS300 is 130-135 passengers. The two-class for the A320 now is typically 156 seats, up from 150. This is only a 15.5% difference, when 20% is the typical rule-of-thumb for up-gauging.

But would a combination of the CS100, at 110 passengers, and the 156-seat A320 or the 186-seat A321 make an attractive package for an airline needing a small airplane—along with the benefit of being able to up-gauge from the CS100 to the CS300 should traffic in the smaller markets support a larger airplane, but not a 156-seat model?

LNC is told Airbus salesmen are itching to be set free to market the CSeries.

Perhaps by the Farnborough Air Show, the industry will see whether the itch is real and just how well it will be scratched.


58 Comments on “After Boeing yields, what’s next for Bombardier CSeries?

  1. So, what about a modern design CS500 with about 160 seats outperforming the A320 and of course the 8max? Feasible with a reasonable turnaround time, perfect for short range and a real headache for Boeing.

    • CS300 is longer than a A320 by about 1M — 38.7M vs 37.5’ish.
      With OEW it is over 5T lighter — 37T vs 42T plus.

      Using the same standard seat pitch — 32”

      The CS300 @ 5 abreast seats 140.
      The A320 @ 6 abreast seats 164/166.

      Fix the CS and its flabby side walls and it is 162/8 seats @ 6 abreast.
      Range will take a hit but it starts to be a big competitor against 30 year old and 50 year old opposition.

      Any CS500 model at 42M plus then becomes the 200 seater MO’L dreams about as he sleeps in his B737 pyjamas.

      Interesting times ahead at AB SA headquarters.

  2. The CS100 might be too much Aircraft to compete with the ERJ195E2 unless you need the range.
    The CS300 might appeal to the old Douglas customers like Delta, Swiss, Air Canada, SAS, AA.
    Airbus analysis might show that some prospective A320neo customers might do well with a mix of CS300 and A320neo’s like SAS, AA might have routes where 50ea CS300’s could make sense.

  3. Regarding the typical rule-of-thumb for up-gauging (20%). Airlines like British Airways and Lufthansa both configure their A320 with 180 seats. With the exact same seats at the same pitch, the CS300 would be able to carry 150 passengers. That is exactly a 20% difference in capacity.

    The CS300 and A320 are near identical in internal cabin length. The difference is 5 abreast vs. 6 abreast. With 30 rows in both aircraft we get 150 passengers and 180 passengers respectively.

  4. Has the market truly disappeared for the A319/MAX 7? I understood that the compelling reason for upgauging to A320/MAX 8 was the relative economics of the smaller variants. If the fleet is large enough to allow multiple variants wouldn’t a C300 fit very nicely within a mix of A320/1 and give opportunity for route expansion or yield maximisation?

  5. I still don’t understand the business rational for the Mobile plant. At the current production of one delivery per month, what they gonna do? Split it in half? Unless they want to move the whole production, I can’t seem to see a profit in having two lines.

    • Well, I think we can expect much higher production numbers in the future. That’s why they’ll need a second line. I guess sooner or later we’ll see a third line in China or maybe even India.

      • The BBD unions in Montreal must be ecstatic with what you’ve outlined in additional plant possibilities! Maybe they’ll catch “French railway worker fever”, and strike two days a week! LOL

        • Well, if those unions are told that US sales (at least the CS300s) are dependant on a US FAL, they might escape this “french railway worker fever”…

        • Worlds of the short sighted.

          How many jobs in an FAL. How many jobs elsewhere in support of an FAL? 1:9 or thereabouts?

          If you ever feel bored there is a nice SF story around from one Larry Niven : Grammar Lesson.
          good and educative read.

          • Matth: It was a commitment Airbus made when they took over the program.

            BBD planned a second line, so it shifts to the US.

            It possibly avoids another Boeing strike at the C, it maintains the agreement and the expectation is that two lines will run to supply the demand.

            Possibly added bonus to Airbus to build two aircraft (assemble) in the US.

            Happy Alabama as well.

    • Mobile production line means Airbus has a C series FAL in Airbus “territory,” versus the Mirabel one in BBD “territory.” Could be useful if Airbus takes full control of the C series in the future-they can expand as needed without having to deal with BBD. And creating the Mobile line now means BBD is paying for it and not Airbus.

  6. I think the non-US carriers, as mentioned above, configure their frames in all economy seating – so the 150-seat c300 and 120/30-seat c100 could be very useful for hub-feeding by the majors.

    Moving from, say ATRs, to c100 should allow for quicker flight times, more passengers per flight, and more flights per day. I assume a c100/300 is more weather-event resilient than an ATR [but just a guess], and has longer legs to probe further afield into maybe low volume/higher risk feeder routes. I can see Aer Lingus and SAS etc. making use of these.

    A full c100/300 is better than an 80% full a319/20.

    • I do have to comment that the much faster Q400 (over the the lumbering ATR) also allows that.

      Or you can throttle back and bet very close to the same fuel burn.

    • Flew on an AirBaltic CS300 with 145 seat one class layout. Very nice, also fitted the family of 5 in one row.

    • How can you compare a 70 seat turboprop regional jet with a 120 seat mid range jet?

      These are so clearly 2 different markets. As if a airline operating B767, Airbus and Boeing would offer A380 or B777-9x.

      The CS 100 is a product for airlines with larger versions of regional jets (E-Jets, CRJ) for also a little longer routes.
      The CS 300 is slightly smaller than A320/B738max and a beats the A319 and B37-7 versions clearly.

  7. The Cseries is also currently affected by severe delays in engine deliveries, as Pratt&Whitney prioritises replacement engines for A320neos. As a result, Bombardier is already way behind schedule with their deliveries, and out of room to even park all their engine-less airframes. They might have to temporarily suspend production soon if this continues.

    • There are absolutely no delays to the PW1500G deliveries to BBD. In fact engines are hanging on the aircraft for about 100 days prior to first flight. Right now there are eight aircraft with engines which have not flown plus four aircraft in flight testing.
      More engines are piling up in the factory with space getting sparse.

      • The first 2 CS100 for Delta are on the Montreal final assembly line.

        Overall 38 Cseries have flown, and something like 3 are ‘terrible teens’ and have never flown and have no customers (yet)

  8. There have been so many words typed about this program, but nothing changes that they’ve only delivered, I think, two airplanes in almost three months.

    And as to number one, claes, every aircraft assembled by Douglas has at this point been assigned a replacement by every first tier operator.

    Lastly: What exactly is Airbus going to pay their salesmen for? Does incremental C series sales generate any cash for Airbus? My suspicion is the compensation plan for these guys will not be equivalent to their expectations on this line.

    • There were not that many light, cheap, quiet and comforable 2+3 seat aircraft to chose among back then. Already has ex. DC-9/MD-80 Swiss, Air Canada and DAL bought them so the odds that SAS and AA would like them if they try them are pretty good.

  9. In terms of capacity the CS100 and CS300 nicely fit under the A320.

    In terms of commonality, cargo capability and payload range they are far apart.

    If we assume the 737-7 is competition only if a customer has a 737 fleet already and similar for the A319 / if Airbus wants it to be, the real competitors are the E2 190 and specially E2 195.

    The E2 195 is seriously bigger than the type name suggests / anything Embraer sold before.

    Still none of those E2 195’s sold in Europe, in 5 yrs…

    • Big payload differences between the CS300 and A319/320, the 320 of today is the 319 of yesterday.

      Think the sector cost of the 320N and 319N is probably not far apart. Still believe an 320+ could be a real winner but with such a big backlog why worry about it now.

      • The 320+, if AB had the capacity to raise production another +/- 20/month, would take a big bite out of the max 8, the only max that sells a lot.

        Perhaps this would hasten the launch of a real 737 replacement. Perhaps AB intentionally cedes this part of the SA market to B for that (and other?) reasons.

  10. With current backlogs manufacturing capacity factors into this, both for AB and customers. AB may decide to let CS300 take the AB319 sales because they can then build 320’s and 321’s instead. My guess is margins are better on those larger types.

    Customers with expansion plans may decide a CS300 sooner is better than a AB320/19 or 737 later.

    If AB can get the CS to 120/year and offer early slots I suspect they will be able to sell them even if for some airlines the overall economics skew slightly to the other types.

    Can’t fly the aircraft you don’t have.

  11. The current production rate for the C-series is roughly 1 plane per 45 days. Pratt, nor Airbus, can make Mirabel (or a FAL in Alabama) churn out anything approaching 50/year any time soon.

    A/B are again making roughly 120 320/737’s a month, by comparison.

  12. If you think about it a bit, even if it’s all speculative, Airbus need growth, like any big company that respects itself. Airbus must therefore generate sales and profits still increasing, year after year. Where are the next growth areas in the next 5 to 10 years? In the widebody sector? Otherwise, how to fight, how to gain speed against Boeing, knowing that Americans are getting ready to buy Embraer? I believe that the 75-150 seat sector is a market for the Airbus-Bombardier duo. This is a promising sector, generating growth for Airbus, for the following reasons: i) the renewal of regional aircraft in the United States, ii) a still virgin market in Asia (the Government of India is focusing on the development of regional airports, such as China’s, the interest of the boss of Air Asia is known: his next big order could well be to fill the need for regional jets throughout Asia), iii) the possibility for Airbus to cut the ambitions of Boeing / Embraer, iv) and finally, a great opportunity for Airbus to launch a brand new family of products! Indeed, Airbus would be allowed to offer two categories of products to its customers: a) Airbus CS75, CS90, CS100, CS300 and b) Airbus, 320neo, 321neo, 321LRneo and 322neo. Most importantly, Airbus will be able to offer two different and complementary mixes in the single-aisle sector.

    CS75 and CS90? Well, yes, so what? Invest another $ 2 billion? It’s nothing to cut the wings at Boeing / Embraer! And then, Bombardier will announce, shortly, a major investment in Ireland for the expansion of its wing factory (an increase of about a third on the surface). This anticipated capacity increase must correspond to which project? The Bombardier engineers’ thinking about the CSeries should not be overlooked. Do you really think they only focused on the CS100 and CS300? A Bob Dewar, the boss responsible for this project, balanced individual that he is, has no doubt anticipated a future development of the range while he was making technological choices. Besides, what is he doing now? On this subject, it is important to remember that Bombardier has strong expertise in regional aviation. Airbus would be silly not to capitalize on such a competitive and strategic advantage.
    The CSeries at Delta would be a great laboratory experience, a case study that will be followed this year. When operating and profitability figures are known and tested in Delta’s business model, paradigm shifts can be expected, much as the 787 is doing by opening up new markets. Jet Blue, AA, United and Spirit & Co will be jostling for Airbus gates. Perhaps we can hope for new orders for the new Indian subsidiary of Qatar, a share in the renewal of the 250 single-aisle fleet of KLM / Air France, Air Baltic, etc.

    Otherwise, there is one neglected factor currently that could make a difference: the increase in the number of air travelers in the world. It can be expected that in large Western markets air travel will require increasingly differentiated products and services to distinguish themselves from the competition. However, the CSeries offers a range of features sufficient to allow an airline to differentiate itself from others or even obtain a higher value for its airline tickets.

    Finally, the case of the Mobile plant is explained, among other things, by the production, in US territory, CS300 for US customers and therefore, to counter any threat from Boeing. One can also think that the factory of Mobile would be entrusted the mandate to manufacture CS500.

    In short, remember that if Airbus quickly launches a CS500 to bother Boeing or a CS90 to block Embraer markets, the competitive dynamics of single-aisles will change. And it will take tons of money and time and engineers to the Boeing / Embraer couple to be ahead of the parade …

    • Interesting post Scarlet.

      However, I’m not too optimistic about CS75/90s prospects.

      The CS100 CASM is already border line compared to the E2-195. Any further shrinks would worsen this CASM big time.

      Also, I’m not really sure how the market below the CS100 is profitable.

      It’s getting closer to the scope clauses. You need a good bunch of extra passengers to amortize those mainline wages.

      • I second that opinion. Not only is the 2+3 fuselage to wide to make a smaller plane efficient, but the wing would also be too big.

        It also looks like nowadays with fine tuned aerodynamics and optimized systems you only get two really efficient planes out of one concept, maybe a third one with some limits. With the C-series I rather see a slightly handicapped CS500 than a CS90.

        Besides, it looks like the market below the CS100 is where Airbus is targeting their development of hybrid planes at, which is probably also why there is no successor of the ATR range in development.

      • Put to that equation the thousands already trained pilots in the E-Jets platform. In times of pilot shortage, this is a big asset. I think it would be easier for BBD to develop a re-engined CRJ700/900 to counter-attack Embraer on the lower end. But they would need to do a re-engine+ CRJ, like is E1 to E2.

        • GE Passport is the obvious candidate. BBD already has it on the Global 7000.

          Bit of a weight issue but more significantly I don’t think BBDs heart is in commercial aviation anymore.

          • That’s why I would think on a bigger change to compensate for the higher engine weight. Like taking credit of FBW to reduce structural weight, relaxed stability, etc. Also complementing with composite materials from CS plants.

        • The 75-100 seat market is a tough one. MRJ’s, SSJ’s, CRJ’s, ARJ’s, think the 190E2 most likely the champ out there. Not sure if the 195E2 will make the cut.

          Best BBD/AB stays with the 100-150 seaters?

          • I wouldn’t count on MRJ success. Although it has a band new engine, the other things are too outdated. They are using FBW on the same manner the original E-Jets did, no composites. It is a clear learning device for future endeavors.

        • Isn’t Bombardier trying to sell the CRJ program?
          It seems Bombardier wants to focus on business jets and be a supplier to commercial avation production.

    • Concur on the market being for two single aisle cabin width jets. But I see possibly at some point as follows – the CS500 and maybe the CS700 added. And then Airbus comes in with the CSeries Technology in a NSA in the A320+, A321 and the 322 cabin width. Of course this is after a downturn in the market and some cancelations…

      • It might be that Airbus rewrites the software for the C-series to look and behave as close to an A320neo as possible to reduce the pilot conversion time between the 2 types.
        They even might want to modify the C-series nice active sidesticks to Airbus non-active types for commonality. (Most of us want the opposite, that Airbus updates all their A320neo series to C-series active sidesticks)

  13. A blogger asked several times about the A319neo.

    Any idea on when it will be certified?

  14. Bombardier is getting out of the commercial airplane business, not dumping billions more at it. Unless the Airbus deal manages to fall through, which would be a shock.

    They aren’t manufacturing three or so frames a month. The truth is for some unknown reason much closer to one. And the Alabama final assembly facility, which wouldn’t avoid any tariffs anyway, is useless without substantial feed stock of components from Mirabel. Aside from engine reliability/availability the C series is a well engineered, but neutered, family of two.

    • See link for the status of BBD in Montreal.

      The engines are not an issue right now, not likely to be.

      We don’t know what Alabama would or would not be, there has been no contesting let alone a decision. You can bet Airbus would not be doing an FAL there if they thought it would be successfully challenge.

      I don’t know of any plausible assignment of neutered if you have two aircraft in a series. That is just emotional spin using that term.

      Further, we don’t know what the long term plans are or are not for the C Series. Just getting the CS100/300 up to speed production wise comes first.

  15. The brain trust at Boeing would not have put into jeopardy a defense contract worth billions of dollars to the Canadian government, invested millions of dollars in the best trade attorneys in the country and would not have come right out and said “We are very, very concerned with the possible extensions of the CSeries platform,” unless they were very concerned with the possibilities of this NSA. But as a gambling man, I’d still have to say it is even odds on whether this plane is lengthened.

  16. Airbus salesmen are NOT itching to be set free to market the CSeries.

    • How so? Given the drubbing they have endured over the past couple of years I would reckon they would be glad of something new and shiny to push.

  17. You got your wish AB…
    Now get out there and start securing some orders.. .
    Who knows what production levels can be reached…
    23 planes in almost 2 yrs service. .

  18. As said earlier the 75-100 seat market highly contested with the E2’s the most likely leaders, the CS1/3 the 100-150 seat leaders.

    A market that interest me is 35-75 seats, size debatable. But new technology could make quantum leaps here, electric and open rotor engines (2030+?), which eventually could spill over to the 75-100 seat category. New generation turbo-props also in play.

    Maybe AB-ATR-BBD could be interested in such future high tech developments in the <100 seat market?

  19. If we still want to do foresight, there is another shadow on the board that deserves to be clarified: the lessors, another aircraft owners like Aercap, etc. Their executives have often told us that Bombardier needed to expand its portfolio of customers, that the CSeries needed to become a liquid asset, easy to sell. With this support by Airbus, it seems to me that this situation has arrived at a major crossroads: Airbus, perhaps, will campaign to generate purchases by the end of the year. Is it too early, yet, for these lessors to position themselves to get places in the production schedule? And according to you, which of the new lessors (new buyers) would be able to move first? Why, then ?

  20. Hidden on this is a Trump victory by getting production to shift to the USA robbing Canada of thousands of good paying jobs.

    • simplistic thinking.
      How many “backfactory” jobs behind any FAL worker?

      It will be interesting to watch Boeing move towards integrating more external work to siphon off those profits that appear stolen from Boeing. Afaiks there is a good chance that Boeing will scoop that work but not the profits. Boeing has an institutional problem.

    • ”…production to shift to the USA rubbing Canada of thousands of good paying jobs.” Well, not exactly; those jobs won’t be shift to Alabama, but added to Airbus.
      Mirabelle PQ will still be constructed the CS100 and CS300 for Europe air Baltic, Swiss Air, Asia ( KoreanAir), Canada (big order for AirCanada)

  21. Jobs for the facelift — look at the flabby fuselage wall design?

    Fuselage cross section.
    External vs Internal diameter = 17” using Wiki data.
    146” vs 129” in raw number terms.

    Compare and contrast with the B737:

    External vs Internal diameter = 9” using Wiki data.
    148” vs 139” again in raw numbers.

    Keep the CS external diameter the same and work the interior element to fit in 6 abreast seating @ current sardine class B7double7 sizing of 16.8”?

    What is the smallest cabin width that will allow 6 abreast seating for flights of 2-3 hours — 133 or 135” at a guess?

    C Series become the short range / low cost specialist.

    A320MK2 becomes the mainstream / growth unit with longer legs and real cargo space starting at a fuselage length of 40M approx with the A319 being a build to order specialist model?

    • CS specs use the word diameter, but the CS fuselage ain’t no circle. Maybe that’s Canadian for depth. They don’t list the exterior width, I assume 11′-7″ or so.

    • And what I found most interesting in the above link provided by Anton is what Richard Aboulafia said and I paraphrase: First he says maybe the CS500 won’t be built, but then he says something to the effect that maybe it will if Airbus’ response to Boeing’s NMA makes it build a NMA, and in that case it will lengthen the CSeries… Something to that effect. It would not let me copy the quote.

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