Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has described the Airbus A220 as a “very good aircraft” while on board a demonstration flight of the regional jet.
On Tuesday, Joyce was among invited guests on board an airBaltic A220-300 YL-AAS in Sydney as part of a seven-country, nine-city flying visit of the region.
After a look around the cabin, the galleys and the lavatories during the one-hour flight that took in views of Sydney Harbour and ventured as far south as Canberra, Joyce gave the aircraft the thumbs up.
“To me it looks like a very good aircraft,” Joyce told reporters on board the flight.
“I think the passengers would love it.
“It feels very quiet, that’s one thing you do notice. Even the toilets are big.”
Powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G geared turbofans, the A220 family comprises two models – the A220-100 (100-135 seats) and A220-300 (130-160 seats), formerly Bombardier’s CS100 and CS300.
Currently, the A220-100 has a published range of 2,950nm when configured with 116 passengers, while Airbus lists the A220-300’s range on its website as 3,200nm with 141 passengers.
In May, Airbus announced it would offer an additional 450nm of range for the A220 from the second half of 2020 thanks to an increase in the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 2.3 metric tonnes.
As a result, the A220-100 would have a range of 3,400nm, while the A220-300 would have a range of 3,350nm.
The A220-100’s basic MTOW would increase to 63.1t, from 60.8t currently, while the A220-300 would have a basic MTOW of 69.9t, up from 67.6t.
Airbus single aisle family product marketing manager, customer affairs Souren Agopian was keen to talk up the versatility of the regional jet, noting its published range would be able to cover “pretty much all of Oceania” from Sydney, which included the islands of the South Pacific, as well as Denpasar in Indonesia.
“It offers the capability to do regional routes, which the Fokkers were able to do,” Agopian told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.
“But it also is capable of doing routes that are more long range like the 737.”
A time lapse video from inside #airBaltic #Airbus A220-300 YL-AAS taking off from #Sydney Airport on Tuesday, October 29 2019. The aircraft was operating a demonstration flight as part of an A220 tour of the Asia Pacific. #avgeek pic.twitter.com/6MJorijRU6
— Australian Aviation (@ausaviation) October 30, 2019
Joyce said the question of renewing the Qantas fleet was “a big decision, quite a complicated decision”.
“There’s a lot of moving parts,” Joyce said.
Qantas was planning to make a decision on the replacement of its regional fleet and narrowbody fleet some time in 2020.
Currently, the Qantas fleet has 20 Boeing 717s operated by Cobham Aviation Services on both charter flights and regular public transport (RPT) services across Australia.
Further, the airline group’s Perth-based Network Aviation subsidiary had 17 Fokker 100s used mainly on fly-in/fly-out charters in Western Australia.
The 717s were between 13 and 17 years old and the Fokker 100s were more than 20 years old. Joyce said both regional jets continued to perform well.
“At some stage there is a limit to the life of those aircraft and you have to plan for the future,” Joyce said.
The A220, as well as competing E-jet from Embraer, were the two aircraft types under consideration for the Boeing 717 and Fokker 100.
Joyce said the assessment of Qantas’s regional fleet would be likely be undertaken alongside the question of what would replace the airline’s 75 Boeing 737-800s.
That assessment could include Boeing’s proposed new mid-market aircraft, known in some circles as the 797.
Joyce said the 797, at least in the marketing material Boeing has made public as it continued to assess whether to go ahead and offer the type for sale, represented an ideal aircraft for the congested capital city airports, as well as some domestic and international routes currently served with its 737-800 and A330 fleet.
“We like a lot of airlines are saying ‘you’d be crazy not to do it Boeing’. We think it is a fantastic aircraft on paper, it’s looks good for what we want and I think they are hearing that quite a bit,” Joyce said.
“But they have to get over the issues with the MAX, they have to get the 777 certified, so they’ve got a few issues that they have to get over.
“So we’re not expecting any decision anytime soon.”
Qantas was planning to wrap up its assessment of its regional and narrowbody fleet some time in 2020.
And in a potential early bargaining tactic, Joyce said there would have to be some movement on the price of the A220.
“What Airbus have to get right is the pricing of this aircraft,” Joyce said.
“As it was priced before it was very high so for us to buy it so has to be a lot cheaper than the prices we’ve been seeing.”
The most recent Airbus price list, published in 2018, has the A220-100 selling for US$81 million, while the A220-300 had a sticker price of US$91.5 million. Airlines typically received discounts off the sticker prices.
Airbus stopped publishing the list price for its commercial aircraft lineup in 2019.
VIDEO: Photographer Seth Jaworski posted this video of the airBaltic Airbus A220-300 demonstration flight on his Instagram page.