JetBlue, Bombardier Said to Resume Talks on C Series Order

  • Agreement would follow recent purchase of 75 jets by Delta
  • Discount airline uses Embraer, Airbus planes for its flights

JetBlue Airways Corp. resumed talks with Bombardier Inc. about a possible order of the planemaker’s C Series aircraft, after a pause in discussions earlier this year, people familiar with the matter said.

The two sides began meeting over the jetliner in the second half of last year, but broke off negotiations about two months ago, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.

If the New York-based discount carrier places an order, it would join Delta Air Lines Inc. and Air Canada among major North American airlines deciding to buy the jet since Bombardier won certification from Canadian regulators in December. The C Series is the planemaker’s biggest-ever jet, a step up in size from the Montreal-based company’s signature regional models.

Delta’s commitment removes a threat that Bombardier may end production of the C series because of a lack of orders, which would have meant maintenance costs for the existing aircraft would become “much more expensive” over time, said Joe DeNardi, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co.

“It’s easier for Bombardier to sell it now that they have a marquee customer to support that production line for the next several years,” he said in an interview.

Bombardier and JetBlue declined to comment.

JetBlue fell 2.6 percent to $19.41 at 11:01 a.m. in New York, while Bombardier rose less than 1 percent to C$1.98 in Toronto.

Not Clear

It isn’t clear where the C Series would fit into JetBlue’s fleet. The airline operates 60 Embraer SA E190s with 100 all-coach seats and has about 160 larger, single-aisle Airbus planes, most of them the top-selling A320 model. The carrier in 2013 delayed an order for 24 additional Embraers to as late as 2022 as it focused on larger, more fuel-efficient jets.

Bombardier’s CS100 can seat 108 to 133 passengers and the CS300 can carry 130 to 160 travelers.

Boston Service

While JetBlue has said it is open to the possibility of operating just planes in the A320 family, the airline also has said that the smaller E190 is best suited for the short-distance, high-frequency routes out of Boston.

Delta last week agreed to buy at least 75 C Series in an order valued at $5.6 billion, based on list prices, with deliveries of the CS100 jets starting in 2018. Delta, which will become the largest operator of the aircraft, also has options for an additional 50 planes. Carriers typically negotiate discounts on jet purchases.

Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s Swiss International unit in the third quarter will become the first carrier to operate the C Series.

Delta’s order -- the biggest yet for the C Series -- propelled Bombardier past a goal of 300 firm commitments by the time the aircraft enters service. The deal marked the first major firm order in 19 months for the C Series, which has struggled to make inroads against single-aisle aircraft made by Airbus and Boeing Co.

Bombardier has said the C Series, which features the new geared turbofan engine from United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney unit, will cost about 15 percent less to operate, cut fuel burn by about 20 percent and produce less noise than competing jetliners of similar seating capacity.

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