Belfast Telegraph

Latest US order for 60 aircraft 'good news' for Bombardier’s Belfast staff

By Ryan McAleer

A second major order for 60 A220-300 aircraft since Airbus took over the project a fortnight ago has been warmly welcomed in Belfast, where the wings are made.

It brings to 120 the number of jets placed on the order book since last week, when Airbus officially brought the former C Series brand under its control.

The European aerospace giant now owns 50.01% of the aircraft programme, with Bombardier retaining 34%.

Yesterday's order for an as yet unnamed new US airline comes on the back of last week's order for 60 by JetBlue.

The full price of the order has been put at $5.4bn (£4bn), but both airlines are likely to enjoy a significant discount due to the scale of the commitment.

David Neeleman, who has helped set up a series of airlines in both North and South America, including JetBlue, was confirmed as the majority investor involved in yesterday's order at the Farnborough Airshow.

"After years of US airline consolidation, the conditions are improving for a new generation of US airline to emerge, focused on passenger service and satisfaction," said Mr Neeleman yesterday after the signing of a memorandum of understanding.

"The A220 will enable us to serve thinner routes in comfort without compromising cost, especially on longer-range missions. With deliveries starting in 2021, we will have ample time to assemble a world-class management team and another winning business model."

Welcoming the announcement, East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said he had been delighted with the progress since Airbus took majority control on July 1.

The DUP man said he was also encouraged by the comments from Philippe Balducchi yesterday. The chief executive of the new Bombardier-Airbus partnership appeared to play down fears that wing manufacturing could be moved from Belfast.

"Airbus were quite clear today about their commitment to the Belfast plant. So whatever about some of the overarching discussions, the orders keep coming in," he said.

"The pivotal nature of the Belfast workforce is very much to the fore of the A220."

Stephen Kelly of Manufacturing NI said the order was "great news" for the Bombardier facilities and its supply chain locally.

"We were always confident the C Series, now known as the A220, would be a great success in the market given its innovation and its efficiency and now that it's been cleared to service markets across the globe, buyers are being drawn to it.

"This, alongside other recent firm and intended orders, is a big vote of confidence in the aircraft and those who make it."

The new Airbus-Bombardier partnership stated last week that just 38 A220 aircraft have been delivered to date. Prior to the latest two orders, the backlog stood at 364.

Production is set to ramp up to meet the demand, with the joint venture confirming that Belfast will remain the sole manufacturing line for the wings.

However, the Unite union has sounded warnings over suggestions that Airbus will demand cost savings of 20% from its suppliers, including Bombardier's Belfast plant, where 1,000 people are employed in connection with wing production.

Regional officer Susan Fitzgerald said this week that additional cuts would spark a reaction.

Belfast Telegraph

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