Skift Take

So much can happen between now and 2021. David Neeleman's new airline may never get off the ground. But let's hope for the best. The U.S. airline industry could use its first new entrant since 2007 to stir up competition.

Do you like comfortable aircraft, friendly service and low prices? You’ll likely have a new option in the United States as soon as three years from now.

Airbus on Tuesday confirmed what might have been the worst-kept secret in the U.S. airline industry. JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman, who was pushed out as CEO of his own company in 2007 after mishandling the carrier’s operation, is starting a new U.S. carrier — and passengers almost certainly will be big winners if the startup goes as planned.

“After years of U.S. airline consolidation, the conditions are improving for a new generation of U.S. airline to emerge, focused on passenger service and satisfaction,” Neeleman said in an Airbus  press release.

The last U.S. airline launch was Virgin America 11 years ago.

As reported last month in the trade journal Airline Weekly, Neeleman’s startup has reached a memorandum of understanding with Airbus for 60 Airbus A220-300s, with deliveries starting in 2021. Until earlier this month, the aircraft was called the Bombardier CS300, but Bombardier, which had trouble marketing the aircraft, sold a controlling interest to Airbus.

Airbus made the Neeleman announcement at the Farnborough Air Show in England.

The A220, which will be powered by Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engines, typically seats about 140 passengers, but can fit up to 160. Passengers tend to like the airplane, which is already in service for Latvia’s Air Baltic, because it has few middle seats — it has two seats on one side and three on the other — and because it’s relatively quiet.

Airlines like it because it had advanced cockpit technology and burns about 20 percent fuel than comparable older aircraft, according to Airbus. It also can fly much farther than the typical aircraft of its size, and should easily be able to make it from coast-to-coast of the United States.

Neeleman has said little about his proposed new airline, but Airline Weekly reported he planned to look at secondary airports, particularly outside major cities. For airlines, it is easier to rent gates at those airports, and for passengers, they’re often easier to navigate.

“The A220 will enable us to serve thinner routes in comfort without compromising cost, especially on longer-range missions,” Neeleman said. “With deliveries starting in 2021, we will have ample time to assemble a world-class management team and another winning business model.”

The announcement did not say what Neeleman planned to call his airline. Airline Weekly reported it might be called Moxy Airways.

The news about the startup airline comes roughly a week after JetBlue also said it would add 60 A220 jets. The aircraft will replace older-model Embraer E190s in the airline’s fleet.

Delta Air Lines also has an order for the A220.

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Tags: airbus, david neeleman, jetblue airways

Photo credit: JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman has agreed to a memorandum of understanding with Airbus for A220 jets to start his new U.S. airline. Airbus

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