Bombardier Inc rolled out its latest commercial jet and said it is well placed to win new business from airlines emerging from the downturn that need more efficient fleets to control costs.
Bombardier, the world’s No. 3 commercial aircraft manufacturer after Airbus and Boeing, on Tuesday delivered the first of its CRJ1000 100-seat jets to France’s Brit Air, and Spain’s Air Nostrum, at the company’s plant in Mirabel, Quebec, where the aircraft are produced.
The company had to slow production of its regional jets this year and last as deliveries of its CRJ family of aircraft dropped about 20 percent this fiscal year.
But Bombardier is in talks with a number of potential customers for the CRJ1000 and sees orders picking up as passenger levels creep higher and carriers search for the biggest bang for their buck, said Gary Scott, president of Bombardier’s commercial aerospace division, Reuters reports.
“We’re still coming out of the recession and they’re (airlines) still rebuilding their balance sheets,” he said. “There’s more activity, more interest in new aircraft acquisitions, so as we move into next year and the year after that, that’s when you’ll start to see more orders.”
Air Nostrum, an independent that works closely with Spanish flagship carrier Iberia (IZN.V), has ordered 35 CRJ1000s. The company said that the lower operating costs of the new jets will help offset the lower fares that carrier in Europe have been offering to entice customers back into the air.
“In the context of the low-yield environment we are facing, the most efficient thing to do is to minimize your costs per seat, and the economics of the 100-seater are far superior to the economics of the 50-seaters,” said Miguel Angel Falcon, general manager of Air Nostrum.
Previously, the largest jet in the CRJ family was the 90-seat 900 model. The smallest is the 50-seat 200 model. Falcon said he was confident passenger numbers in Spain would be back to more normal levels by mid-2011, though air fares would not likely bounce back as fast.
“I don’t see — and I think that many people agree — prices coming back to where they used to be,” he said.
European airlines feel the pinch of lower air fares and are looking to make up the lost revenue. That can be achieved through updating aging, inefficient fleets, said Marc Lamidey, chief executive of Air France (AIRF.PA) subsidiary Brit Air.
He said the 14 CRJ1000s his company has ordered are 10 percent more economical on operating costs and 20 percent better on fuel burn than the older Fokker 100s they will be replacing in Brit Air’s fleet.
One of the main things that held many carriers back from ordering new planes during and coming out of the downturn was the difficulty in obtaining financing.
Both Brit Air and Air Nostrum secured funding for their orders, at least in part, through Export Development Canada (EDC), the country’s export credit agency.
Lamidey said that last year Brit Air could not find financing through the European banks, but that credit conditions seemed to be easing.
“It’s getting better, and maybe for the next aircraft, it will be possible to come back to the banking system,” he said.
Falcon said Air Nostrum was about to complete the financing for the first 10 CRJ1000s of its order with the support of EDC and some Spanish banks, though he did not say which ones.
Both companies have other CRJ aircraft in their fleets and said the commonality of the aircraft — they can use the same pilots, maintenance crew, service staff, etcetera — makes them more economical to run and was another factor in their decisions to buy the jets.
There are more than 1,300 CRJ aircraft in operation around the world. Bombardier will soon make its first foray into the 100- to 149-seat single aisle passenger plane market with its new CSeries aircraft, with service starting in 2013.