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A Bombardier C Series passenger jet depicted in a company handout photo.

Canadian Press/Canadian Press

Bombardier Inc. has signed a new airline for its C Series airplane that further diversifies the customer base for the 100- to 149-seat narrow-bodied airplane.

PrivatAir SA of Switzerland will become the 11th customer for the C Series with the purchase of five planes in an order worth about $309-million (U.S.). It will take options on another five aircraft, which, if exercised, would increase the deal's value to about $636-million.

The Geneva-based airline, which was founded in 1977, provides private charter and private airline services, and will operate the smaller C100 versions of the planes in all business class configuration.

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"The CS100 jetliner is very well suited for our route expansion plans," PrivatAir president and chief executive officer Greg Thomas said in a statement Thursday.

The airline's schedule includes six-day-a-week flights between Amsterdam and Houston, and daily Geneva-Manama-Muscat flights.

The C Series is Bombardier's $3.4-billion bid to enter the large commercial airplane market that is dominated now by Chicago-based Boeing Co. and Airbus SAS of France. The two giants have responded to the challenge posed by Bombardier and other new entrants in the segment by offering new, more fuel efficient engines on their 737 and A320 aircraft, respectively.

Montreal-based Bombardier maintains that a 15-per-cent cash operating cost advantage and 20-per-cent lower rate of fuel consumption than existing planes make it a better bargain than even the more fuel efficient versions of the 737 and A320.

The CS100 version of the Bombardier plane offers 100 to 125 seats, while the larger CS300 will hold between 130 and 145 passengers. The CS100 is scheduled to make its first flight at the end of this year and enter into service for airlines in 2013.

The deal announced Thursday raises the number of firm orders to 138. Airlines have signed options for another 124 planes, purchase rights for 10, and letters of intent on 35.

Among the customers that have signed firm orders are national carriers Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Korean Air, an airplane leasing company and the largest single customer, Republic Airways Holdings, which operates Frontier Airlines and other regional U.S. carriers.

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