European manufacturer Airbus is currently placing a significant focus on its next-generation narrowbody airliners. It has found that the lower demand caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has allowed the smaller A220 to emerge as an ideal aircraft for certain markets. Meanwhile, it is also developing a ‘neo’ (New Engine Option) variant of its short-fuselage A319.
It is possible to draw several similarities between these two small, efficient aircraft. But can one conclusively determine which is the better aircraft as a whole? Let’s take a look.
What is the Airbus A220?
The A220 actually began life as a Canadian-designed single-aisle jetliner known as the Bombardier CSeries. Bombardier developed and produced two variants of this next-generation narrowbody family, which it designated the CS100 and CS300. The first of these entered service with SWISS in July 2016, with airBaltic launching the larger CS300 in December of that year.
Airbus acquired a majority stake (50.01%) in the program in July 2018. This saw the CSeries family’s aircraft be rebranded as the A220-100 and -300 respectively. Having initially been constructed in Mirabel, Canada, Airbus opened a second A220 factory in Mobile, USA in 2019.
Then, in February 2020, it increased its share in the program to 75%. At this stage, Bombardier withdrew from the program, leaving the remaining 25% in the hands of the Quebec Government. The A220 features an unorthodox 2-3 seating configuration and competes with the likes of the Boeing 737 MAX 7 and Embraer E195-E2.
Introducing the A319neo
At around the same time as Bombardier was launching the CSeries, Airbus began the rollout of its A320neo family. These aircraft would be next-generation iterations of its popular A320ceo (Current Engine Option) series, which Air France launched in April 1988. Airbus designed neo versions of the A319, A320, and A321 models, but not the smaller A318 ‘Baby Bus.’
Eight years after the A320’s launch, Airbus also introduced the short-fuselage A319 with Swissair. Since then, nearly 1,500 A319s have been produced, including a handful of long-range A319LR models. The type’s next iteration will be the re-engined A319neo.
Benefits of the new technology
Besides benefitting from new engines that increase efficiency and reduce noise pollution, the A319neo will also boast other benefits over its ‘ceo’ predecessor. It will feature aerodynamic improvements, including ‘sharklet’ wingtips and an enhanced passenger cabin, including greater hand luggage storage facilities.
These factors, and others, will contribute to significant performance improvements over older models. They are predicted to reduce the aircraft’s operating costs by a factor of 8%, and its fuel consumption by as much as 15%.
Overall, this will lead to a 900 km (486 NM) increase in the aircraft’s range. However, while the A320neo and A321 neo have already entered active commercial service, this cannot yet be said for the smaller A319. That said, a handful are in service as corporate jets for companies such as Germany’s K5-Aviation and Hong Kong’s Shimao Group, according to Planespotters.net.
Comparing the specifications
A good way to compare and contrast two similar aircraft is to list their specifications side-by-side. For this analysis, we will compare the A319neo (listed first in each instance) with the larger A220-300 (listed second).
Length – 33.84 meters vs 38.70 meters.
Wingspan – 35.80 meters vs 35.10 meters.
Capacity – 140-160 passengers (six-abreast) vs 120-150 passengers (five abreast).
Height – 11.76 meters vs 11.50 meters.
Range – 6,950 km (3,750 NM) vs 6,204 km (3,350 NM).
Cruising speed – Both Mach 0.78 (833 km/h, 450 knots).
Cargo volume – 27 cubic meters vs 31.6 cubic meters.
Maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) – 75.5 tonnes vs 69.9 tonnes.
As we can see from their specifications, there is little to separate the two aircraft. While the A319neo has the edge in terms of capacity and range, the A220-300 offers operators more cargo space. This has become a particularly interesting design aspect over the last year. The increased importance of airfreight brought on by the pandemic has led to passenger-focused airlines increasingly delving into the cargo business. But how do they compare commercially?
Minimal commercial success for the A319neo
As Simple Flying explored last November, the A319neo has not been nearly as popular as its larger next-generation A320 and A321 counterparts. According to Airbus’s latest ‘Orders and Deliveries’ data, the European manufacturer has received just 78 requests for the aircraft. Of these, only three have been delivered, and all to corporate operators.
Among the few carriers to have placed orders for the A319neo are Spirit Airlines and China Southern. The list price of these aircraft comes in at $101.5 million, around 10% more than the A319ceo at $92.3 million. However, the A220-300 comes in lower than both of these, at $91.5 million. The smaller A220-100 costs even less, listed at just $81 million per aircraft!
The rise of the A220
This price difference quickly adds up when placing orders for large batches of aircraft. As such, this could go some way to explaining the A220’s popularity being far higher than that of the A319neo. While this aircraft’s orders are yet to crack three figures, the A220 family has far surpassed this milestone. The smaller -100 series is not too far ahead in terms of orders, registering just 90, but a much healthier 49 of these have been delivered.
However, the larger A220-300 has become a popular aircraft since its launch just over four years ago. As of February 28th, 2021, Airbus had received 539 orders for the type, of which it had delivered 99 examples. This success only seems set to continue, as it is ideally suited to the lighter loads seen on many routes at present due to the pandemic. Indeed, the A220 seems to have been one of a small number of winners in aviation over the last year.
On the whole, the A220 series seems to fairly conclusively be a more attractive prospect for airlines than the A319neo. As well as being cheaper and more popular (and thus a more established product), it is also better suited to today’s lower-capacity operations.
It also represents a product with excellent versatility. While we have compared it to a six-abreast Airbus product, it is also very competitive as a regional jet. Indeed, it serves smaller airports such as London City, which are out of bounds for the A319. Airbus seems determined to push on with its smallest neo aircraft, and it may well find that orders pick up. However, as our analysis has demonstrated, carriers may find it hard to resist the all-around versatility of the A220 series.
S: Simple Flying