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Bombardier Inc. anticipates another major order for the C Series jet next year following project-bolstering deals from Delta Air Lines Inc. and Air Canada in 2016, and may announce a smaller contract this month.
The Canadian planemaker is pursuing prospects including some high-volume opportunities and would like to gain a foothold in the low-cost airline segment next year, Colin Bole, senior vice president for sales at its commercial aircraft unit, said Tuesday in London.
Bombardier announced the latest C Series sale on Dec. 2, with Air Tanzania agreeing to buy two CS300 variants, taking the overall order tally to 360 planes. The manufacturer expects to have handed over a total of seven aircraft this year, five to initial customer Swiss and two to Air Baltic Corp., with production curtailed by issues with the model’s Pratt & Whitney engines. Deliveries will step up to the originally planned 30 to 35 in 2017, he said.
“We are not going to announce another megadeal this year, though there may be something smaller, but I’d say we’re hopeful of at least one more in 2017,” the executive said in an interview. Montreal-based Bombardier sold at least 75 CS100 planes to Delta and at least 45 CS300s to Air Canada in agreements that gave the faltering project vital big-name customers.
While U.S. discount operator Spirit Airlines Inc. has said it may be interested in buying the C Series, the capacity of the two variants available is lower than what is flown by budget carriers such as Ryanair Holdings Plc and Southwest Airlines Co.
Bole said that’s because airlines are seeking to minimize costs per seat mile flown by moving to bigger planes. However, he said, the all-composite C Series would be profitable at lower occupancy levels, enabling discount carriers to add routes that wouldn’t be viable with current Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE models.
“We don’t want to cut out Airbus and Boeing,” he said. “The C Series can be complementary. We actually think there’s a strong sales case for low-cost carriers for certain kinds of services where bigger planes don’t work.”
Bole said there may be a market for a larger version of the C Series with 150-plus seats. He’s not pushing for such a model, given Bombardier’s estimates of demand for 7,000 planes in the 100- to 150-berth range over the next 10 years. A bigger plane would open up new sales opportunities but compete more directly with the best-selling variants of the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, he said.
Michael Ryan, general manager of Bombardier’s plant in Belfast, Northern Ireland, said in London that it’s not yet clear what impact the company’s moves to cut 7,500 more jobs will have on the site.
The U.K. factory, which makes fuselages, engine nacelles and advanced composite wings for the C Series and Global 7000 planes, is eliminating more than 1,000 positions, with the last posts due to be gone by the end of January, Ryan said in an interview.
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