There were undoubtedly a lot of hangovers in Canada this weekend. After several false starts and plenty of rumors, it is now official. Delta has ordered 75 Bombardier C Series aircraft with options for 50 more. If you work for Bombardier, you should be celebrating. And really, those who fly Delta should be joining in. This is going to be great for travelers.
This order follows on the heels of Air Canada buying 45 with options for 30 more just a couple months ago. Bombardier finally has a bit of a tailwind after being on the ropes for quite some time. Why is this all happening now? It is undoubtedly due to new management at Bombardier deciding to get much more aggressive on price. That should have happened a long time ago, and now orders are starting to come in. This should help ensure this airplane becomes viable for the longer term.
Delta’s order is for 75 of the smallest CS100 aircraft, though it has the ability to change some of those into the larger CS300 if it wants. Buried in the release, Delta said it would no longer take delivery of the 20 former-Air Canada Embraer 190s it was going to take off Boeing’s hands. Boeing is most certainly not happy about any of this, I’m sure.
This means that Delta will have a net gain of 55 airplanes over its previous plan with the first delivery coming in 2018. How will these airplanes be used? The size is nearly identical to the 110-seat 717 in the same 2-3 (or 3-2) configuration. But those 717s have a lot of life left in them, so I wouldn’t think of this as a direct replacement. Instead, this should allow Delta to upgauge more flights that are operated by 76 seat regional jets today. That’s what we’ve already seen the 717 do in many markets.
Further, this, along with a new order for 37 A321s, will also allow Delta to speed up retirement of its 149-seat MD-88s. In the release, Delta noted “Delta is phasing out some of the airline’s less fuel-efficient planes,” and that means you, MD-88. Of course, that’s a big gap in seat capacity, but remember, Delta has the option to switch some orders to the larger CS300 which is much closer in size. With the A321 on the high end, it brackets the MD-88 capacity and lets Delta move airplanes around in ways different than it does today. There are, for example, certainly some flights out there that could thrive on a smaller C-Series aircraft that has better unit costs than the MD-88 anyway.
Whether travelers are used to flying an Embraer 175, CRJ-900, 717 or MD-88, the CS100 is going to be an improvement. And it’s certainly a better passenger experience than the 737-700s which United opted to orders instead of the C-Series.
You might remember I had the chance to crawl around a C-Series aircraft last December. (All these photos are from that.) Sure this didn’t have Delta’s interior, but there are certain things we know for sure. The cabin width allows for 18.5 inch seats with the middle seat at 19 inches. That’s half an inch to an inch more than the 717 and MD-88. It’s also more than an inch wider than a 737’s capability.
It also has incredible carry-on bag storage. That’s a problem on the old Douglas narrowbodies and it’s certainly a problem on the regional jets as well. This C-Series has giant windows and a fairly vertical sidewall which makes it really great for window seat lovers like me. It’s also a quiet airplane.
Since I wasn’t at media day on Friday, I wasn’t able to ask any more specifics. I sent emails as well but couldn’t get any details there either. I think it’s safe to assume we’re probably a little early anyway since it doesn’t come in for two years.
This order is clearly great news for Bombardier. It’s also great for Delta since it now has (what I can only assume to be) a great deal on a very efficient airplane. But it’s customers that should be most excited, because this airplane is going to be a big improvement compared to what the C-Series is going to replace. Yes it pains me to say that as a lover of all things Douglas, but it is the truth.