Republic Orders New Bombardier Airplane That Will Compete with Boeing and Airbus (If It Works)

Bombardier, Frontier, Midwest Airlines, Republic

Republic, overlord of Frontier, Midwest, and a bunch of regional flying, made headlines last week by placing an order for 40 CS300 airplanes. These are the “C-Series” airplanes that Bombardier has been putting together to compete with the Boeing and Airbus narrowbodies. If it actually works as advertised, then that’s great news. But there’s a big “if” here. This order shows some confidence in the airplane, but more importantly, it also gives us some insight as to where Republic is taking its branded product.

For Republic, this was probably a pretty easy decision to make. The order for 40 planes with 138 seats each is worth $3.1 billion at list prices, but that means they probably paid $29.95. Like Airbus when it first tried to break into the US market, Bombardier must have been willing to give a sweetheart deal to anyone who would take a chance.

The C-Series is the first non-Boeing/Airbus airplane in the 100-150 seat category to get an order in the US since Douglas back in the day. So maybe it’s fitting that the interior of the cabin looks remarkably like the MD-80. Try to ignore the hilarious rainbow of colors strategically placed by Bombardier in this shot (Asian, black, white, Indian, young, old, bald, gray hair, blah, blah, blah) and you’ll see that it actually looks like a vast improvement over the MD-80:

C Series Interior

The seating is 2×3 across, just as in the MD airplanes, but you can see that the windows are nice and big, and, most importantly, so are the overhead bins. They show roller bags being placed wheels-in, so these should be just like what you’ll find on a new 737 or A320, just with only one middle seat per row instead of two.

The other thing that isn’t like the MD-80 is that the engines are slung under the wings, so you won’t be stuck in row 32 staring at an engine casing. The engines are really what have the chance to make this thing succeed. After heading toward the junk heap of formerly important aviation-related companies, Pratt & Whitney has decided to make a comeback with its Geared Turbofan. This is a complex engine that has never been able to be produced reliably for commercial operations before. (They can do it for military.) Pratt thinks it will make it work, and that means a 20% reduction in fuel burn. If it works, that’s huge, and this airplane will fly long before Boeing or Airbus even get close with their next generation airplane. If not, well, this plane may not fly at all.

So what will Republic do with this? Well, the plan is to put them into service in the branded operation – that means Frontier and Midwest. They don’t have much of a choice here. If any airline decided to outsource its 138-seat flying requirements, then there would be an absolute revolt from the front lines. Most airlines don’t have the ability to do it now anyway.

In the branded world, they won’t say if it’s going to be a Frontier or a Midwest product, but let’s be honest. By the time these things show up in 2015, I’ll put money down there’s really only one brand left (if any, I suppose). But there are some clues in the press release about where they’re taking their product.

The airplane will be configured with 138 seats. The first five rows will be in STRETCH configuration with a few inches more legroom and nothing else. That tells me that Midwest’s Signature Service days are numbered. They’ll end up standardizing with STRETCH as the premium option.

Will these airplanes end up replacing the Airbus fleet? It wouldn’t surprise me if that happens one day, but the C-Series can’t really offer the A320-size capacity that Frontier might want to continue to have at the upper end. For what it’s worth, Republic says that no retirements are planned because of this. Well yeah, it’s still 5 years away.

To sum it up, the planes must have been really cheap, and they won’t be delivered for 5 years. Might as well get in on the action now with the hope that this thing works as advertised. If it doesn’t, then I’m sure they can just walk away. If not, then they’ll be in a good place.

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17 comments on “Republic Orders New Bombardier Airplane That Will Compete with Boeing and Airbus (If It Works)

  1. Looks like fat/large/big boned/puffy/Kevin Smith type people were left out of the PR photo. We must only show small size people so our seats and cabin look big it seems.

    Maybe this will get Boeing thinking about smaller planes. They have ‘oversized’ themselves out of a lot of markets.

  2. Good luck to them. You think the F9 people would learn there lesson with the Q400 that Bombardier’s touted efficiencies for maintanence cost are pretty poor. I’m sure the Reliability analyst will stay busy.

  3. Interesting photo. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many people talking to eachother on a plane, even as big as a 747 before!

    My last flight was from SEA to JNU in an Alaska 737-400 combi, and I swear no ONE talked at all on the 2 hour flight. Even the flight crews, except to ask what type of beverage I wanted. Just a lil smile/grin and that’s it.

  4. I read somewhere else as part of the analysis of this move that most of Frontier’s airbus leases expire around… (wait for it) 2015. So regardless of what they may say, I think these planes are intended as an option to replace all or some of the A319s in Frontier’s fleet — the meat and potatoes plane they fly almost everywhere, so it makes sense to replace it with something that at least promises increased efficiency while serving the same segment. And considering they just took delivery of a couple (I think?) more A320s, they probably will keep those at the high end for few routes that they can guarantee to stuff them full.

  5. Doesn’t look like 22″ rollers will fit flat into those overhead bins. Looks like “valet” check-in will be here for years to come.

  6. “………with its Geared Turbofan. This is a complex engine that has never been able to be produced reliably for commercial operations before.”

    I think you need to look again.

    Honeywell has sold over 11,000 geared turbofan engines, since they introduced the TFE-731 in 1972. This engine is in service on LearJets, Dassault Falcons, Hawkers, Westwinds and several other business jets.

  7. Jon D wrote:

    Honeywell has sold over 11,000 geared turbofan engines, since they introduced the TFE-731 in 1972. This engine is in service on LearJets, Dassault Falcons, Hawkers, Westwinds and several other business jets.

    Ok, so bizjets, fine. But I’m talking about high cycle commercial operations. That’s a whole different story.

  8. from signs (phase out the Q400, the midwest brand,skywest codeshare) it seems like in a few years the bedford operated airplanes will all fall under one name=REPUBLIC…and compete head on with southwest, airtran, and jetblue…republic will fly mostly E-170 thru E-195, cs-300’s and a few a320’s but pay their employees regional airline wages

  9. One thing that hasn’t been metioned is the CSeries seats are wider than those found on the 737, A320 family or the E-Jets. And the middle seat is even wider than the others.

  10. why bother buying them?

    Airtran and Southwest are going to crush Republic in Milwaukee long before they take delivery

  11. @ Ed Casper:

    And just how wide are those seats? E-Jets use 18″ seats, as do most A320-series jets. The 737 is the one that’s lacking in that department, and will do so unless the next iteration of the 737 is widened a bit.

    BTW, I noticed this story only described Boeing, Airbus, and now Bombardier making jets in the 100-150 pax category. Someone had better tell Embraer that the E-190 (98-114 pax) and the E-195 (108-122 pax) doesn’t qualify. As it is, the Big 2 are losing customers to E-Jets already. I’m willing to bet that Embraer is considering a stretch to more directly compete with Boeing and Airbus. If they can stretch the E-195 to accomodate a few more pax, not only will they be able to compete more directly against the 737/A320, the “E-198” or whatever they’d call it could beat the CSeries to the market and suck sales from them. I wouldn’t be surprised if some potential CSeries customers are holding off waiting to see if Embraer does go ahead with a slightly longer E-Jet as a safer bet.

  12. It would be less expensive to retro-fit the E190 with the P&W geared turbofans engines. You also have 2 x 2 seating for maximum pax comfort.

  13. @ CF:The other unpleasant reality is the only folks with any experience with 10,000hp or so gearboxes in airplane engines are the Russians. It remains to be seen if PW can build a gearbox that large that can stay on the wing for 30,000 hours or so. (At this point there are a lot of CFM56’s that have been ‘on the wing’ for upwards of 25,000 hours, and some have actually passed 40,000 hours without overhaul.

    So it isn’t just a question of delivering, it is also a question of service life.
    Very few TFE713’s even get to 10,000 hours or 10,000 cycles in their entire operating life time. By contrast the design life for most commercial jetliners is about 100,000 hours.

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