A small airline based in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has become the first customer for the Airbus A220 in 2019.
Air Vanuatu has signed a firm order for two of the larger A220-300s and two smaller A220-100 aircraft, creating more work for Bombardier's Belfast workers, who make the wings.
It's the first time a carrier from the Pacific region has ordered the aircraft. Airbus acquired a majority stake in the Bombardier's former C Series last summer, with the Canadian group remaining a minority owner.
Airbus began 2019 with the cancellation of five orders for the smaller A220-100 planes, understood to have been prompted by Swiss-based business charter carrier PrivatAir filing for insolvency at the end of last year.
Based in the capital Port Vila, Air Vanuatu operates to 26 domestic airports and internationally to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and New Caledonia. It began services in 1987 and has played a key role in establishing Vanuatu as a tourism and investment destination.
Its current fleet is made up of Boeing 737 and ATR 72 planes.
Derek Nice, the carrier's chief executive, said: "We are proud to be the launch airline in the South Pacific of the best-in-class Airbus A220. These aircraft will be deployed to operate on our current domestic and international routes, including our newly announced non-stop Melbourne-Vanuatu service, and will bolster plans to expand our network in the South Pacific."
The order book for A220 aircraft now stands at just over 530.
Christian Scherer, Airbus chief commercial officer, said: "By ordering the A220, Air Vanuatu is making a significant investment in advanced technology and superior passenger comfort, while demonstrating its respect for fuel efficiency and the environment.
"Air Vanuatu's decision to place the Airbus A220 at the centre of its expansion plans will surely keep it one step ahead of the competition."