Belfast Telegraph

Bombardier boost as carrier confirms its order for 60 jets


By Mark McConville

Air France has firmed up an order for 60 Airbus A220-300 aircraft, the wings of which are made by around 1,000 Bombardier staff in Belfast.

The airline made the order in July. It included an additional 30 purchase options and acquisition rights for further 30.

The Air France-KLM Group said the order would "modernise its single-aisle fleet" and that the aircraft were intended to be operated by Air France.

The deal is also the largest Airbus A220 order from a European airline so far.

The complete wings and fuselage components for the jet are made at Bombardier's Northern Ireland operation.

Christian Scherer, Airbus chief commercial officer, said he was glad to see Air France "endorsing the A220 as a great step towards fleet optimisation for large network carriers".

"The largest Airbus A220 order from a European carrier to date speaks volumes on Air France's ambitious sustainability drive," he added.

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"The modern and fuel-efficient Airbus A220 will contribute to lower fuel burn and CO2 emissions compared to older-generation aircraft.

"We thank Air France for the confidence placed in Airbus and for its investment in our latest technology aircraft."

Air France-KLM currently operates a fleet of 541 aircraft, including 159 Airbus aircraft, across three European carriers.

The company said the new A220s would primarily fly under the Air France banner from September 2021.

Group CEO Benjamin Smith said the A220s would gradually replace Air France's A318 and A319 fleet.

The company said it was attracted by the economical and environmental credentials of the jet, which generates 20% less CO2 emissions than comparable aircraft in its class.

Air France said it would also reduce its cost per seat by more than 10% compared to the aircraft it will replace.

The aircraft started out as the C Series, a single-aisle commercial jet designed to rival similar efforts made by other companies.

The programme was sold to Airbus two years ago, although Bombardier staff continue to make the wings.

Earlier this year Bombardier's operations in Belfast were sold as part of a deal worth around $1.1bn (£850m) with US company Spirit AeroSystems.

The deal with Spirit AeroSystems also included Bombardier's business in Casablanca, Morocco, and its maintenance, repair and overhaul facility in Dallas in the United States.

In addition to $500m (£386m) in cash, the purchase includes the assumption of liabilities valued at more than $700m (£541m).

The aircraft manufacturer employs around 3,600 people in Northern Ireland and has owned the former Shorts factory in Belfast since 1989.

The A220 is the only aircraft purpose-built for the 100 to 150 seat market.

With an order book of 530 aircraft as of the end of November this year, Airbus said that the A220 has all the credentials to win the lion's share of the 100 to 150 seat aircraft market, estimated to represent 7,000 aircraft over the next 20 years.

Belfast Telegraph