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JetBlue orders 30 more Airbus A220 jets to speed Embraer retirements

JetBlue Airways Corp. is buying 30 additional Airbus SE A220-300 planes, bolstering the carrier’s fleet and allowing it to more swiftly retire older aircraft.

The purchase, an exercise of prior options, brings JetBlue’s total order of the single-aisle jet to 100, the airline said Tuesday. JetBlue expects its ninth A220 delivery this month, and 30 more by the end of 2023.

The Airbus plant in Mobile has produced A220s for JetBlue. A spokesman for the planemaker said a decision on the assembly location of the 30 additional jets has not been made, but they will be assembled either in Mobile or at the plant in Mirabel, Quebec in Canada, or a combination of the two.

The additional A220s allow the carrier to “accelerate our fleet modernization plans to deliver stronger cost performance,” JetBlue Chief Executive Officer Robin Hayes said. The aircraft will replace Embraer SA E190 jets by 2026.

The A220s give JetBlue 40 seats more per jet than the current 100-seat E190 fleet, a critical factor in the airline’s drive to lower its per-seat unit costs. The company expects to fly the aircraft across the country, something it can’t do with the Embraers, given their range limits, Chief Financial Officer Ursula Hurley said.

“This is a game-changer aircraft for JetBlue in terms of the financial and operational performance it will deliver,” she said.

A JetBlue A220 takes off. (Airbus)

New York-based JetBlue originally ordered 60 A220s in 2018 with an option for 60 more and converted 10 of those to firm orders the following year. JetBlue will begin retiring its oldest Airbus aircraft as early as 2023 and is “comfortable” with the size of its current A220 order book, she said.

The carrier is interested in the prospect of a larger, stretched version that Airbus is contemplating in response to some customer requests, she said. “We’re supportive if Airbus were to move forward on a stretched airplane.”

With the new deal, Airbus has secured orders for 740 A220s. Delta Air Lines and Breeze Airways are other large U.S. customers for the model.

“It is very rewarding to see a happy customer coming back for more aircraft not even a year after entry into service of its first A220. We salute our friends at JetBlue on this landmark deal,” said Christian Scherer, Airbus chief commercial officer and head of Airbus International. “Over 700 A220 orders to date underscore the strong market appetite for this all-new single aisle aircraft.”

(With assistance from Charlotte Ryan. Alabama NewsCenter contributed to this report.)