Would An A220-500 Really Cannibalize Airbus A320 Sales?

With many airlines around the world indicating their interest in the extended Airbus A220, a common criticism of this hypothetical endeavor is that the jetliner will undo sales of the similarly sized A320neo. If we consider the size of the plane alone, there are merits to this argument. However, there is also a lot to the situation that would allow another variant of the A220 to thrive alongside the A320. Let’s solve this question in this article.

The A220-500 will see the addition of six additional rows of seating to the A220-300. Photo: simple flight

Has the A220 really taken over sales of other Airbus jets?

To date, 70 Airbus A319neo aircraft have been ordered. Some of these aircraft are ACJ A319neos and have already entered service as private jets. However, the passenger version of the aircraft has not yet officially entered service, having continued flight tests in recent months.

While a single order for 70 aircraft may be impressive, that same number has spread out over several years, and many airlines make it even lower. The number, when put in the context of other sales of the A320neo family, is frankly disappointing. Consider this: Airbus has aggregated orders for nearly 7,900 aircraft across the entire A320neo family (A319, A320 and A321). Analyzing the numbers, sales of the A319neo account for less than 1% of the family’s total orders.

Some speculate that the blame is the similar size of the A220-300. The two planes actually have identical maximum capacities while the A220-300 has a lower MTOW, making it cheaper to operate since many airports charge based on this metric.

However, the argument to counter the “cannibal theory” is that A319ceo is relatively new. The first A319 was delivered in 1996, making the oldest aircraft around 24 years old. However, as noted in a previous article for Simple Flying, most A319s flying today are in the vicinity between 15 and 20 years. Thus, it is helpful that airline customers hoping to modernize their A319 fleets may be waiting for the right time to do so.

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The A320 family is Airbus’ best-selling airline. Photo: Airbus

How does the A220-500 interfere with the A320neo

If we limit our analysis to the size of the aircraft, there is no doubt about it: the A220-500 will overlap the A320neo in the same way that the A220-300 will overlap the A319neo. A larger version of the A220 will add six rows of seats, increasing the capacity to 200 seats. This is close to the maximum capacity of an A320neo.

In addition, just like the example above, we expect the A220-500 to also have a lower MTOW than the A320, thus lowering flight costs and making it a more attractive aircraft. But is there more to it than just size?

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Air France is one of the airlines that has already shown interest in the extended A220. Photo: Air France

One factory, two different types of planes

The A220 and A320 families are completely different. Although sold under the Airbus banner, the A220 was designed by Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier, and thus is an entirely different type. When we take this into account, we imagine airlines that have already invested heavily in the A320 family will try to stay in the family (think easyJet, Air Arabia, and AirAsia). The same applies to operators keen to roll out the A220- airBaltic and Breeze Airways. This will ensure efficiencies when it comes to crew training, maintenance, parts and more – something that is lost if the carrier has both the A220 and the A320.

Air Canada, Air France, Delta Air Lines and many other operators all operate both types of Airbus aircraft. However, their operations and fleets are already so diverse that they prefer the operational flexibility of owning aircraft of various sizes. It is also interesting to note that most of the airlines that operate A220 and A320 aircraft are also A321 operators. This tells us that these carriers want to run routes on opposite sides of the spectrum – something no single family of aircraft can do.

airBaltic, new staff, full vaccinations
It wouldn’t be very likely that an airline like airBaltic would order the A320neo if the A220-500 wasn’t available. The carrier has streamlined its operations with a fleet of one type of A220-300. Photo: airBaltic

How can two Airbus families thrive

It’s no secret that Airbus is doing very well at the moment. Its recent major wins include deals with Qantas and Air France-KLM group. These two deals will see airlines modernize their fleets and replace older Boeing 737NG models with either the A220 or A320neos.

These orders have only added to the huge backlog of Airbus. When it comes to the A320neo, more than 2,300 aircraft have been ordered yet to be delivered. In fact, if an airline joins the “back of the queue” now, there is certainly a multi-year waiting period to receive the new narrow-body objects. So, with a limited production slot available, Airbus can find ways to increase A220 production at the respective facilities and offer a similar product to the airlines – one that’s available within a shorter period of time. So, at the end of the day, given the current popularity of both planes, it looks like Airbus could do well on two fronts – even if there’s overlap.

What is your opinion? Is there a convincing argument that the A220-500 will not affect sales of the A320neo? Please let us know by leaving a comment.

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