Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

An Airbus A220-300 flies for the first time at the Airbus delivery centre in Colomiers, southwestern France, on July 10, 2018.PASCAL PAVANI/AFP/Getty Images

Airbus SE finalized deals for 120 of the former C Series jetliners on Thursday, giving a boost to the money-losing airplane program it took over from Bombardier Inc.

Airbus, which absorbed the C Series in July and rebranded it the A220, said it had completed deals to sell 60 planes each to U.S.-based JetBlue Airways Corp. and to Moxy Airlines, a U.S. startup backed by JetBlue founder David Neeleman, who also co-founded WestJet Airlines Ltd.

The sales, which are the first for the 110- to 130-seat plane since Airbus took majority control of the Montreal-based program, would not have happened under Bombardier’s ownership, said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at Teal Group. The Quebec-based aerospace and train maker did not have the deep pockets needed to develop, build and market the jet, he said in an interview.

“It helps make this program even more of a success,” he said. “Until Airbus absorbed this program back in July, this program was kind of floundering. Thanks to deals like this, which are largely the result of the Bombardier acquisition, you’re getting to a much higher production rate. And that’s certainly good for everyone involved.”

Europe-based Airbus said the jets will be made in Mobile, Ala., where it is building a new assembly plant next to an existing Airbus factory. However, Mr. Aboulafia said Bombardier is expected to get a share of the work associated with the orders.

Bombardier spent more than $6-billion developing the jet over several years, but lacked the financial backing to get it to market. In July, Airbus became the plane’s builder and seller, while Bombardier retained a 34-per-cent ownership and the province of Quebec held a 16-per-cent stake.

A Bombardier spokesperson was not available for comment on Thursday.

Airbus did not provide financial details of the sales. Mr. Aboulafia said the jets’ list prices are US$81.5-million to $91-million each, although 60-per-cent discounts are standard.

The expansion of the A220 program sets the stage for a broader confrontation with Boeing Co., which last month closed a deal to take over 80 per cent of the commercial unit of Embraer SA, subject to Brazilian government approval.

For 2018, most attention is on the core sales battle between the transatlantic plane giants, with Boeing so far in the lead.

Airbus ended November with 35 per cent of net sales in the main jetliner market against its U.S. rival after 11 months overshadowed by management changes and delivery delays.

Since then, it has picked up speed with deals for 220 aircraft, including a 100-plane order from Irish lessor Avolon, leaving it 90 short of Boeing’s end-November total of 690 jets.

On a like-for-like basis, excluding the former C Series model, Airbus has reached 480 net sales for the year against Boeing’s most recent tally of 690, while reaching a market share of 41 per cent, based on reported orders.

Airbus plans to give full-year figures on Jan. 11. Both companies often pull in last-minute deals to lift annual totals, with announcements delayed until early the following year.

Airbus is meanwhile preparing a keenly awaited delivery tally, amid growing doubts over whether it has been able to achieve a 2018 target of 800 deliveries, or 782 without counting any of the Canadian A220 jets, industry sources said.

With files from Reuters

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe