By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published November 19, 2013
DUBAI AIRSHOW, UAE: Day three in the desert has officially wrapped up. It was not a splashy day, with only a handful of orders and interesting tidbits coming out: no big headlines. Nevertheless it was an important day for Bombardier, who locked in a very important order today.
Bombardier breathes sigh of relief: The big news of the day came from Bombardier, which finally confirmed their first CSeries order of the show. Iraqi Airways was the lucky customer, announcing an order for five CSeries CS300 airplanes. The deal, considered only a letter of intent by Bombardier, also includes eleven options for a total of up to sixteen aircraft. The CSeries has struggled to attract orders as of late, with the last one from mid-October.
The carrier will operate a 132 passenger configuration, split between twelve first and 120 economy seats – a low density for a plane built to carry closer to 150. Iraqi Airways will give back some of their existing CRJ-9 aircraft as part of the deal, which they said are no longer able to meet growing demand.
The carrier said they chose the CSeries over competing Airbus A319 and Boeing 737-700 due to its low fuel, maintenance, and overall operating costs. CEO Captain Saad Al-Khafaji waved off concerns, literally, about operating the untested airplane, simply stating “no”. The airplanes will operate out of secondary airports to routes into Europe and the Middle East.
The order is not surprising, and had been rumored for some time. Nevertheless it was welcome news for the company. Bombardier would not comment on whether any new orders could be expected, but did say that they would continue to be available to show their mock-up through tomorrow to potential customers (most of the commercial components of the show typically wrap up on day three).
Continuing the trickle that started yesterday, the company also announced more Q400 NextGen orders. Abu Dhabi Aviation, a niche carrier in the Middle East region, ordered two Q400 Next Gen. Thai carrier Nok Air placed a firm order for two of the airplane plus two options and four purchase rights. Today’s orders bring Bombardier’s Q400 orders up to fourteen for the week.
Nok Air will also be the launch customer of an evolutionary modification to the Q400, called the Q400 NextGen Extra Capacity Seating Configuration. The update, which Bombardier says is available immediately for new builds or as a retrofit, now enables the airplane to squeeze up to 86 with 29 inches of pitch (a Bombardier executive actually apologized for it). The ‘improvement’ was gained by removing a forward baggage door and replacing it with a regular emergency exit.
Finally in Bombardier news, the Canadian manufacturer also announced a letter of intent by China Express for the Canadair CRJ-900.
Back to the Iraqi Airways thread, Al-Khafaji confirmed to Airchive that they are in talks with both big manufacturers to expand their long-haul fleet. The airline is currently negotiating with Airbus for A330s and Boeing for 777s. The carrier presently operates both in their long-haul fleet, and has 787 Dreamliner’s on order, which they expect to receive in 2015.
New 787 Orders: The 787-8 secured a surprising order today for two airplanes via TUI Travel PLC, extending the carrier’s orders to fifteen
Air Serbia announced a small order for ten Airbus A320NEO, part of a fleet renewal plan that will be completed in 2020. The small Belgrade-based carrier was known as JAT Airways until just over six weeks ago when it was rebranded as Air Serbia. The airline is gradually transitioning away from their current fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft as it leases a mixture of Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft to serve near-mid distance international markets. The A320NEO airplanes will replace the leased Airbus airplanes starting in 2018.
The airline is seeking to become the next top carrier in a region laden with entrenched competition such as nearby Wizz Air. They had no comment on how they would accomplish the feat, stating that they are “investing in product and people…[while] focusing on what we need to do, and less what others are doing.”
Interestingly the order does not increase Airbus’ total order books for the show. In a convoluted series of twists and turns, Etihad, who owns a 49% stake in Air Serbia, negotiated the deal on the smaller carrier’s behalf so the government of Serbia, who owns the remaining 51% stake, would not have to do it themselves. As a result, the ten airplanes were already announced during Etihad’s Airbus purchase on Sunday.
Boeing gave an update on their 737MAX during a morning briefing. The airplane, which received a substantial boost earlier in the week with the large order from flyDubai, is on track for a first flight in 2017.
Unrelated fun fact, the use of the word “maximum” was dropped three times in the release.
Another unrelated fun fact, I only just discovered the press room has had a stash of ice cream available for days. The find gives me hope that I can press on through the remaining two days.