Bombardier Said to Hold Talks With JetBlue on CSeries Order

  • Discussions are said to continue with no decision reached
  • A deal would deliver on pledge to sign up established airline

Bombardier Inc., struggling to find established airlines as buyers for its new CSeries airliner, is in talks about a possible order with JetBlue Airways Corp., two people familiar with the matter said.

The discussions are continuing, and no decision has been reached, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. They gave no details on the size of any potential sale to JetBlue, whose fleet now consists of Airbus Group SE and Embraer SA aircraft.

Signing up JetBlue would let Bombardier make good on a pledge to add well-known carriers to a roster of CSeries buyers now dominated by lessors and small airlines. The only North American airline with a firm order is Republic Airways Holdings Inc., which said last year there was “no place” in its business model for the CSeries.

The CSeries is Bombardier’s biggest-ever jet, a step up in size from the company’s signature regional models. Now running more than two years late, the aircraft hasn’t won a firm sale since September 2014 and has drained cash as development costs ballooned $2 billion to $5.4 billion. It is due to enter service next year.

“We do not have any comment specific to Bombardier’s CSeries, but it is routine for us to meet with aircraft manufacturers,” said Doug McGraw, a spokesman for New York-based JetBlue.

Air Canada

Bombardier is also in talks with Air Canada regarding the CSeries, said one of the people familiar with the company’s plans. A CSeries test aircraft was recently on display at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Air Canada’s main international hub. Air Canada decided in 2014 to keep some of its Embraer planes after considering the CSeries as an alternative.

Isabelle Arthur, an Air Canada spokeswoman, declined in an e-mail to comment on the carrier’s interest in the CSeries. Isabelle Gauthier, a spokeswoman for Montreal-based Bombardier, declined to discuss talks with potential customers.

Walter Spracklin, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto, said in a note this month that he expects Air Canada to place a CSeries order eventually as the carrier modernizes its fleet.

JetBlue operates 60 Embraer E190s with 100 all-coach seats and has about 150 larger, single-aisle Airbus planes, most of them the top-selling A320 model. In 2013, the airline pushed back an order for 24 additional Embraers to as late as 2022 amid a focus on larger, more fuel-efficient planes.

While JetBlue has expressed openness to the idea of moving just to Airbus planes from the A320 family, it also has said the smaller E190 is best suited for short-haul, high-frequency routes it flies out of Boston.

The Bombardier jets also could serve that role, but it’s unclear whether JetBlue would want to work through any early issues with the planes after being the initial airline to fly the E190 a decade ago, said Robert Mann, an aviation consultant based in Port Washington, New York.

“With the CSeries you potentially benefit from some very attractive new technology and economics,” Mann said. “But you also absorb the slings and arrows of being one of the first big operators. You work out all the kinks.”

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