Airbus A220 Role May Grow In Post-Pandemic Air Transport | A220在疫情后航空运输中的作用可能会增强

Airbus A220-300 in flight
With orders for 548 aircraft, the -300 is the most popular A220 version.
Credit: S. Ramadier/Airbus


When Airbus acquired what was then called the Bombardier C Series in 2017 for essentially nothing plus guaranteed loss-sharing with the Canadian company, most analysts were full of praise for the move. They felt it would put Airbus in a much better strategic position vis-a-vis Boeing for years to come.

Aviation Week Network -航空周刊》将此次交易称为空客公司的 世纪交易 考虑到该系列飞机巨大的潜力,当空客继续收购庞巴迪在项目中的其余股份时(总共约占该项目的75%,其他25%由魁北克省政府持有),在大多数人看来这是顺理成章的决定。

Aviation Week called the transaction Airbus’ “deal of the century”. And when Airbus decided to take over the remaining stake Bombardier held in what is now called the A220 program, it was seen by most as a natural decision, given the aircraft’s potential. 


But now COVID-19 has changed the world—and with it, air transport. The big reset affects essentially all aspects of the industry.


Even the most modern narrowbody available today is suffering enormously from the impact. And though the strategic rationale for the deal and the positive long-term outlook for the program itself remain, the original business plan for the A220 is history and needs to be rewritten. That realization has come just as the program was about to take off in earnest. There are ample uncertainties about whether it can fill the role that Airbus envisioned, at least in the short and medium term.


nose of Airbus A220 aircraft
Airbus currently builds four A220s a month. Credit: A. Doumenjou/Airbus


In 2019, Airbus delivered 48 A220s, in line with the initial baseline production rate of four aircraft per month. The plan was to take it upward as fast as possible from there, both to have the program profitable by 2025 and to justify the politically driven introduction of the second final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama, which officially opened in May.


What happened, of course, is quite the opposite. In the first eight months of 2020, Airbus delivered only 13 A220s.Unless there is a sudden spike in deliveries between now and year-end, Airbus will fall short of even the most pessimistic analyst projections for the program.


The Mirabel, Quebec, assembly line was closed for seven weeks from late March and into May following a Quebec provincial government order. The line is now producing three aircraft per month and is going to five by mid-2021, one year later than planned. Mobile is building one aircraft per month.


Combined, the two production centers have a capacity of 14 aircraft per month: 10 in Mirabel and four in Mobile. That capacity could be expanded further with more investment should that be needed.  Airbus is keeping to its target of expanding output to 14 by mid-decade but cautions: “This could be adapted as the market evolves over the coming years and in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.”

Avitas咨询公司的高级副总裁Adam Pilarski说:“目前的产能是合理的,他们可以而且应该尝试扩大产能。我对空客的计划充满信心……[该机可以]很容易达到1000架的规模。”

“The production numbers are reasonable,” says Adam Pilarski, senior vice president at consultancy Avitas. “They can and should try to ramp it up. I have confidence in the Airbus plans. . . . [It can] easily be a 1,000-aircraft program.”


In 2020, Delta Air Lines has taken three A220-100s; 10 additional aircraft went to Air Canada and Egypt Air and were delivered from the main base in Mirabel. Even before the novel coronavirus pandemic hit, Airbus’ main sales challenge for the A220 was to find enough customers outside the U.S. to either enable the planned Mirabel ramp-up or at least sustain the existing rate well into the future. The prospects of resuming growth, or even sustaining rates—both there and in Mobile—are not good for the foreseeable future.

另一个问题是A220对少数美国客户的高度依赖,尤其是未来五年内。根据《Aviation Week Network - 航空周刊》的“舰队发现”数据库,JetBlue、达美航空和Breeze Airways是A220莫比尔总装线的三个主要客户。到2021年,这三家公司将合计接收26架飞机,随后在2022年接收40架、2023年接收52架、2024年接收44架。

Another issue is the high dependence on just a few U.S. customers, particularly for the next five years. According to the Aviation Week Intelligence Network Fleet Discovery database, JetBlue, Delta and David Neeleman’s start-up Breeze Airways are the three main customers for the Mobile line. In 2021, the three are due to take a combined 26 aircraft, then 40 in 2022, 52 in 2023 and 44 in 2024.

aerial view of Airbus' Mobile, Alabama, facility
Airbus expanded its Mobile, Alabama, site to assemble A220s. The line officially opened in May. Credit: Airbus


Over the next four years, Mirabel is planned to depend on three large customers—Air Canada, AirBaltic and Air France—but their combined backlog of 65 aircraft is not nearly enough to fill production capacity, even at much-reduced rates. Air Canada is due to take delivery of 37 remaining A220s through 2023, 27 of them planned for 2021 and 2022, according to Fleet Discovery. AirBaltic has 28 more aircraft on firm order and recently decided to stretch deliveries into 2024. The last of 50 aircraft originally were agreed to arrive at the end of 2023. Air France is slated to take five aircraft in 2021, rising to 14 each year in 2022-24.

租赁公司Air Lease Corp.在2019年订购了50架A220-300,大部分要等到2025年以后交付。这些飞机的生产可能在米拉贝尔和莫比尔同时进行。

Air Lease Corp. placed an order for 50 A220-300s in 2019, but the bulk will arrive only from 2025 onward. Production could be split between Mirabel and Mobile.

A220在竞争中处于有利地位,它唯一的真正竞争对手是巴航工业的E-Jet E2系列飞机;但是在与波音的合作计划中止之后,巴航工业的实力遭进一步削弱。与E2系列飞机正面竞争的是A220-100,根据机舱布局该机的座位级别位于E190-E2和E195-E2之间。但是,A220-100的最大起飞重量为63吨,比E190-E2的56.4吨和E195-E2的61吨更重;而且A220-100的航程达3400海里,而E190-E2和E195-E2的航程分别为2800海里和2600海里。

The A220 is well-positioned competitively. Its only real competition is the Embraer E2—and Embraer is further weakened after the collapse of the planned commercial aircraft partnership with Boeing. The A220 version that does compete with the E2 in terms of size is the -100. Depending on cabin layout, it sits somewhere between the E190-E2 and the E195-E2. However, at a maximum takeoff weight of 63 tons, it is much heavier than the E190-E2 (56.4 tons) and even the E195-E2 (61 tons). And it has a lot more range: 3,400 nm versus 2,800 for the E190-E2 and 2,600 for the E195-E2.

当然,这些机型在表面上是竞争关系,但实际上它们确实针对着不同的细分市场。 A220系列中大部分订单都是较大的A220-300,而A220-100适用于狭窄的长途航线,但航空公司如果在较短的航线上运营该机的话,由于该机重量更大使其运营短程航线的成本会更高。原则上,使用E2系列飞机可以更好地服务于欧洲或美国的传统支线市场,但是包括最小的E175-E2在内的所有E2型号均不符合美国支线航空中“范围条款”的限制,这对E2系列进入美国市场设置了障碍。然而A220并不需要面对这种限制。

While they are competing superficially, the types really address different market segments. The A220-100 is a niche aircraft—most of the A220 orders are for the larger -300 version—suitable for long, thin routes. Airlines pay a cost penalty when they use it on shorter routes in spite of its weight. More traditional regional connections in Europe or the U.S. are better served with the E2 in principle, though none of the E2 versions including the smallest E175-E2 is compliant with scope clause limitations. But neither is the A220.


Airbus airframe assembly line
Nine airframes are currently in various stages of assembly at the Mobile, Alabama, facility. Credit: Airbus


The larger A220-300 is effectively beyond the range of the E2. This is true not only in terms of size but also, literally, range. Airbus is working on versions of the aircraft that would extend the range to around 4,000 nm, making it capable of flying across the Atlantic or deep into Latin America from the U.S. But the A220 is also well-positioned to be stretched further, to cover what is now the Boeing 737-7 and -8 market.


Despite the differences, there will nonetheless be competition. The reality is some airlines are operating the A220 even if they do not need its range, in part because Airbus can combine A220 deals with other models such as the A320neo. That is why Embraer tried to tie up with Boeing and offer a similar portfolio of aircraft.


It has been argued that the A220, and the Embraer 195-E2 for that matter, will benefit in the COVID-19 recovery as airlines focus on minimizing trip costs and revenue risk by flying smaller aircraft. Airbus says 80% of the A220 fleet had returned to service by July—with the trend continuing, essentially toward a complete return.


但机队恢复了飞行并不一定意味着未来的销售也会增长,因为目前很少有航空公司能够投资购买更多的飞机。 甚至连空中客首席执行官Guillaume Faury最近也评论说,他认为此次严重危机影响了客机的交付和航司的财务状况,因此航空市场前景不确定;今年夏季的航空运输量没有达到市场期望的水平,因此危机可能比以往的影响更加深远。在这种情况下,航空公司高管会专注于风险遏制,还是会再次大量采购飞机而成为市场的焦点?

But that does not necessarily translate into future sales, as few airlines are currently in a position to invest in more aircraft. Even Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury recently commented that he believes that a steep, “quite brutal,” ramp-up in production could arrive as early as 2022 as airlines rebound. In such a scenario of fast catch-up growth, will airline executives focus on risk containment, or will it be all about market share again?

这条消息是Jens Flottau在Aviation Week & Space Technology发表文章的摘要。 在全文中 (英文)可以获取有关空客公司是否会继续A220-500项目进行辩论的详细信息。