Bombardier Commercial Aircraft and Delta Air Lines have signed a firm agreement covering the purchase of 75 CS100 regional airliners with options for an additional 50 aircraft. The agreement also allows Delta to convert a number of these orders into orders for the larger CS300 model down the road.
The Bombardier CSeries is larger than existing regional jet families made by Embraer and by Bombardier itself, but it is substantially lighter than Boeing’s 737-700 or Airbus’ A319 and features five-abreast seating rather than the six-abreast seating typical of narrowbodies. It thus straddles the high end of the regional jet market and the low end of the narrowbody market. It is not intended to replace Bombardier’s existing CRJ line of regional jets, which tops out at the 104-seat CRJ1000.
The CS100, which features standard single-class seating for 110 passengers, competes primarily against Embraer’s E190/195 regional jet family. The second model, the 135-160 seat CS300, will occupy the market segment now owned by the A319 and 737-700.
Bombardier’s CSeries was initially scheduled to enter service in 2013, but the program has suffered delays since launch. The program faced a short-term funding crisis in 2015, but the financial intervention of the provincial government of Quebec, where the CSeries program is based, allowed the program to continue.
The Delta order is a huge boost for the program and couldn’t come at a better time. Bombardier listed a backlog of 243 orders for the CSeries at the end of 2015, including orders for 53 CS100s and 190 CS300s. The total included 40 orders from the now bankrupt Republic Airways and 32 for Russia’s Ilyushin Finance Co. The Republic orders are expected to be canceled, and IFC’s orders look shaky as well due to declining economic conditions in Russia. The order book isn’t a disaster, but there is no question Bombardier has had trouble selling the CSeries, and the Delta order might help change that.
There isn’t anything obviously wrong with the aircraft. Rather, the major problem is one of positioning. The 100-120 seat segment of the regional jet market isn’t very hot right now, and Embraer is blunting the attraction of the CS100 by offering a re-engined version of the E190/195 that will arrive around 2018.
Delta’s embrace of the CS100 gives the aircraft the stamp of approval from a major player in the American market, the most important single market in the regional jet industry, and will help Bombardier sell the CSeries to other carriers. Delta was in a position to drive a hard bargain. Bombardier valued the order at approximately $5.6 billion based on the list price of the CS100, but the price Delta paid is undoubtedly much lower than that.
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