Bombardier Inc.’s CSeries jet has emerged as a frontrunner to form the basis of a new fleet at CityJet Ltd., the biggest carrier at London’s business-focused City Airport where a short runway limits aircraft options.
CityJet owner Intro Aviation GmbH is examining a deal with the Canadian company to replace about 10 BAE Systems Plc Avro RJ85 planes as their leases expire, Intro founder Hans Rudolf Woehrl said in an interview. Sukhoi Co.’s Superjet is also in the running, with a decision possible by the end of September.
Intro aims to tap London City’s corporate appeal to turn CityJet profitable after buying the former Air France-KLM Group unit in April. With the wider Avro fleet of 19 planes due to be stood down as part of a 2 1/2 year renewal plan and the carrier’s Belgian arm VLM operating 15 aging Fokker 50 turboprops, a breakthrough order could herald major gains for Bombardier, which has struggled to win firm CSeries contracts.
“If we opt for a homogeneous fleet, the CSeries would be advantageous,” Woehrl said. “It’s not just about the model. It’s about maintenance, reliability, simulator capacities, resale potential, financing and total costs.”
Bombardier has yet to secure the 300 CSeries orders it’s targeting by the time the jet enters service next year, with recent deals from China’s Zhejiang Loong Airlines Co., lessor Falko Regional Aircraft Ltd. and Jordan’s Petra Airlines involving almost 50 planes all announced on a tentative basis.
Intro is studying CityJet-VLM options that could result in an all-Bombardier fleet of either the CS100 or CS300 CSeries variants, or a combination of the CS300 plus the longest-range Superjet 100LR, which has engines powerful enough for the steep takeoff required from London City, Woehrl said.
While Embraer SA’s E190 model is in theory a contender for the CityJet requirement, production of the existing version has a limited span, making it a stop-gap solution at best, he said. The E2 upgrade, with Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engines, won’t enter production with the Brazilian company until 2018.
The CSeries, Superjet, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. Regional Jet and Embraer E2s will radically change London City services, Declan Collier, its chief executive officer, said in March.
Located six miles from London’s financial district, City’s 1,199-meter (3,934-foot) runway, combined with noise limits, means aircraft must be able to make steep descents and takeoffs. That excludes almost all Boeing Co. and Airbus Group NV models, though the latter’s A318 operates there for British Airways, taking off with a light fuel load and topping up in Ireland.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s Swiss unit said last year it could operate at London City with the smaller CSeries variant it has on order, due for delivery next year and seating 120.
Intro, which could still push back a decision on the City fleet for a year, may also acquire Airbus A320s or Boeing 737s for operations away from the London terminal, Woehrl said.
The company is planning a shake-up of CityJet routes, with services between London City and Germany likely to be scrapped, said Woehrl, who has also been CEO of Deutsche BA, which he sold to Air Berlin Plc, along with long-haul carrier LTU.
While Intro said May 1 that it would continue to operate 700 flights a week from City, Cardiff and Cambridge airports, announcements by rivals have “meaningfully changed” the competitive situation, the executive added.
WirtschaftsWoche earlier reported that Woehrl was looking at ordering new planes.