Airbus’ jetBlue A220 deal, first analysis

The first win of the A220

JetBlue released the presentation from the conference call, but all comparisons are between the airline’s existing E190 and the new A220-300. The A220-300 is a later generation aircraft, with new Pratt & Whitney GTF engines. This is compared against a 20-year older E190 with GE CF34 engines designed in the 1990s. JetBlue was the first airline to operate the E190, making much of its fleet the oldest flying.

The A220-300 is also 35% larger than the E190 by seat count. This improves the per-seat costs further.

The economics of the E195-E2, which was the competitor to the chosen A220-300, were not presented. It uses the same engines as the A220, has a modern wing and Fly-By-Wire and is 25% larger aircraft than the E190.

If we use the present jetBlue E190 cabin as a model for the A220-300 and E195-E2 cabins, the A220-300 would have130 seats, divided as 22 “Even more space” seats at 39-inch pitch and 108 Economy seats at a 32-inch pitch. The E195-E2 would have 118 seats, divided as 20 “Even more space” seats and 98 Economy seats.

JetBlue also mentioned the advantage of stepping down to the A220-100 if needed for certain routes. The A220-100 would have 110 seats divided as 17 “Even more space” seats and 93 Economy while the E190-E2 would have 94 seats divided as 16 “Even more space” and 78 Economy.

The range difference

JetBlue officials said they appreciated the range of the A220-300. Using the same rules for the comparison (2 class cabins with 100kg passengers with bags), the E195-E2 is 800nm behind, whereas the range for the smaller models is similar, Figure 1.

Figure 1. Aircraft data for the jetBlue comparison. Source; Leeham Co.

This is the E195-E2 preliminary range and by it, the implicit fuel consumption, as given by Embraer.

For the E190-E2, the range grew by 120nm during development and the fuel consumption declined with 1.3%, as the company released project margins. The final range and fuel burn for the E195-E2 would probably improve as well, as we come closer to certification.

All aircraft are long-range airplanes, with the E190E2, A220-100 and A220-300 having the range of larger single-aisle aircraft.

The fuel burn difference

With our performance model, we can compare the fuel consumption between the A220 and the E195-E2 as soon as Embraer states the range for the E195-E2. With the cabins as described and using our normalized rules for reserves (5% route reserve, 200nm alternate and 30 minutes circling), we get a preliminary per seat fuel consumption advantage of 6.8% for the A220-300. This is with a 100% load factor. As the load factor decreases, the 3.3% aircraft fuel mile advantage of the E195 comes into play.

Other costs

It’s too early to take this analysis further than preliminary values for fuel consumption. The fees (underway and landing) for the aircraft and the crew costs will be close. The competitors are close in MTOW per seat and would have similar crew costs. The A220-300 would have a few seats more to amortize the cabin crew costs but the flight crew would be more expensive.

For maintenance costs, there is no real in-service experience for either aircraft. Both have the same engine, so no real difference there.

For airframe costs, the A220 has started its life well with Swiss and airBaltic, with first A-check results from Swiss bringing no surprises.

The first generation of E-Jets had high maintenance costs, according to jetBlue. This is an area where Embraer has focused for the E2. It has lowered the Direct Maintenance Costs (DMC) for the E2 generation by 25%, as we described in our December articles.


As said by jetBlue, economically it was close between the A220 and the enhanced E-Jets. This is where other factors come to play. With jetBlue, a large Airbus A320 operator, the deal could be sweetened by Airbus. The upgrade of 25 A320neo options to A321neos likely was part of the solution which swayed jetBlue.

This shows why it will be tough for stand-alone airliner manufacturers to thrive in a world of giants. If the competitor forms a joint venture with a giant, you must follow. The announcement of the joint venture between Embraer and Boeing shall be seen in this context.

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