US low-cost airline JetBlue is heading towards an all-Airbus fleet earlier than planned by ordering another thirty A220-300s. The arrival of the new aircraft allows the carrier to accelerate the phasing out of its sixty Embraer E190s, it said on February 15. JetBlue adds more A220s to phase out E190s sooner.

JetBlue exercised thirty options that were part of the original July 2018 order for sixty firm plus sixty options. In July 2019, its took options on ten. Today’s announcement, which actually was executed two days ago, brings firm orders to 100 A220-300s, with twenty options left.

The low-cost carrier has only eight A220s in service since the delivery of the first one in December 2020. Number nine is scheduled for later this month, with another nine joining during the rest of this year. In 2023, the delivery rate goes up to 21, three more than the airline said in its January 27 presentation on the 2021 results. The revised delivery schedule shows 27 in 2024 (plus five from the previous scheme), twenty in 2025 (plus eight), and fourteen in 2026 (plus thirteen).

“With thirty additional A220s on order, we’re in a position to accelerate our fleet modernization plans to deliver stronger cost performance and support our focus city network strategy”, says CEO Robin Hayes in a media statement.

Replacing smaller E-jets with bigger A220s

The last Embraer E190 is set to leave the fleet now in 2026. Last July, JetBlue said that it delayed the retirement of thirty owned E-jets from 2023 until 2026 while thirty leased aircraft would be returned until 2026. Six were scheduled for a return to the lessor in 2023. This process will now be accelerated, which means that the A220-300 with 140 seats will become the smallest type in the fleet. Last summer, the carrier reasoned that keeping the smaller 100-set E190s would not be a bad idea. The Embraers would be most suitable for feeding traffic in its Northeast American region, where it has an alliance with American Airlines.

Rethinking the fleet strategy may have various reasons. As Hayes says in the statement: “We’re already seeing benefits from the eight A220s we’ve added to the fleet, and we’re very happy to have more on the way. We’ve seen double-digit increases in customer satisfaction scores, and these fuel-efficient aircraft support our leadership in reducing carbon emissions.”

Doing away with its Embraer-fleet and opting for the A220 also seems to confirm a trend seen with other airlines, notably United Airlines. United selected the Boeing MAX 10 and Airbus A321neo last summer, partly as a replacement for smaller regional jets. The airline said it would benefit from a higher gauge by using the bigger aircraft, as well as offering a better product to its customers. JetBlue mentions “greater flexibility to support JetBlue’s network strategy and the introduction of its all-new onboard experience to more customers” as other reasons why it has exercised options for more A220s.

The latest order brings total orders for the A220 to 740, says Airbus. On January 31, its order book showed orders for 102 of the smaller -100 and 588 for the -300. Including the twenty from Aviation Capital Group that were confirmed on February 14 and thirty from JetBlue, this makes 740. “It is very rewarding to see a happy customer coming back for more aircraft not even a year after Entry into Service of its first A220. We salute our friends at JetBlue on this landmark deal,” said Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer, who is at the Singapore Airshow this week.  

 

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Active as journalist since 1987, starting with regional newspaper Zwolse Courant. Grand Prix reporter in 1997 at Dutch monthly Formule 1, general reporter Lelystad/Flevoland at De Stentor/Dagblad Flevoland, from 2002 until June 2021 radio/tv reporter/presentor with Omroep Flevoland.
Since mid-2016 freelance aviation journalist, since June 2021 fully dedicated to aviation. Reporter/editor AirInsight since December 2018. Contributor to Airliner World, Piloot & Vliegtuig. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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