Delta’s C-Series Aircraft Order is Great News for Travelers

Bombardier, Delta

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.

C Series Wing

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.

C Series Cabin

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.

C Series Overhead Bins

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.

C Series Fuselage Curvature

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.

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30 comments on “Delta’s C-Series Aircraft Order is Great News for Travelers

  1. Can the CS100 fit full size carry-ons in the overhead bins perpendicular to the aisle? If so, that might mean avoiding the post flight jetway line up that RJs require, which would be a big plus for many business travelers.

    Also, any fearless predictions on when we will see the last regular Mad Dog pax flight (excluding 717s) in the US? I assume American still operates MD-8x planes out of DFW.

    1. Kilroy – Yep, as you can see in the photo, on the 3 seat-side, the roller bags can fit on their sides, perpendicular to the aisle. On the other side, I believe they have to go flat, but it’s still a ton of capacity.

      As for the last Mad Dog, I’m guessing it won’t be until 2020 or so. American will be done in the next year or two. Delta will keep flying them for longer, I’d think, but Allegiant is out there as well. Not sure about the MD-90s though, and whether they’ll go longer. The 717s certainly should.

      1. Thanks, Brett. After looking at the pictures on a computer instead of a phone, yes, it looks like roller bags on the 2-seat side can fit in the bins with the handle facing the aisle, instead of forward or aft. That should mean enough space for each pax to put a roller bag in the overheads, which will be great.

        It also looks like the tops of the windows will be closer to eye level sitting down, as opposed to stomach or armpit level on some RJs. That will be very nice as well.

        I will be sad when the Mad Dogs are out of non-ULCC US pax revenue service, but at least the CS100 will continue the 3-2 format that I am fond of. Really is nice to have a 20% chance or less at getting a middle seat.

  2. I’ll miss the Mad Dogs in the fleet. We’ve seen them quite a bit here at CVG. I’ve always found them a nice ride for the 1-2 hour flights to which they are routinely assigned. That said, I can’t wait for the CS100/300 to arrive. In a time where the airline experience seems to be only heading downward, this plane is going to stand head and shoulders above its counterparts. Congrats to BBD and Delta for bringing this jet into the fold.

    1. Agreed on both counts, Jason. I’m a big fan of the 2/2 and 3/2 seating arrangements over 3/3, and as a window lover the shoulder/head room on the CS100 window seats appears similar to that of the bigger planes, which will be very nicec.

  3. I have always preferred the 3-2 seating in the DC-9/MD80/88/90/717 over the 3-3 in the other narrowbodies, so I’m happy to see this configuration make a comeback.

    And this looks like a snazzy plane to boot, so win-win all around!

  4. Regarding the E190s, the press release says they won’t “induct” them into the fleet. So that sounds more like they’ll take delivery of them, but not fly them and likely attempt to resell them.

      1. I vaguely recall reading the same thing somewhere else – Delta’s going to take the planes from Boeing and then resell them.

  5. I’m excited to get into one of the CS100’s. From the frequent flyer perspective I’ll be celebrating when the last CRJ leaves the fleet. I’m impartial to the old mad dogs, but always like to see new mainline metal in the fleets. Most of my flying is thin routes on regionals which is hardly easy traveling.

    I’m curious why you say the C-series is a better cabin experience to the 737-700? While seat width is important one thing I like about larger planes is the wider cross section making the entire experience less claustrophobic. 3-3 seating to me is preferable over 2-3 in that aspect. Going from a MD-90 to a 737-800 might not be a big difference in the #’s but in perception it’s huge, at least to me.

    1. I think it’s a seat width issue. The 737 in a 3-3 config have seats that are at least an inch narrower than the CS series. Being a narrower plane and not being able to fit a 6th seat per row is actually helping passenger experience.

    2. A – Wider seats, bigger windows, large bins, and a 2-3 configuration allows couples to have window/aisle. Try this airplane and see if you think it’s claustrophobic. Felt really nice when I walked on it.

    3. I like sitting on the 2 seat side of the DC-9 derivatives because there is no middle seat. To me, that’s more comfortable than a 737. Plus, if you are at the window, you only need to ask one person to move so you can get up instead of two. That’s always a plus.

  6. It’s also great to have a second manufacturer in the small mainline narrowbody market (and four in the overall mainline market), after years of a completely-uncontested Airbus/Boeing duopoly.

    But I’m skeptical that this will be a better cabin experience than the E175. (With respect to CRJ900, DC-9 derivatives, and 737, I agree.) 2×3 seating is nice, but 2×2 seating is nicer. And the E17x/E19x is OK for overhead bin space; it’s very rare that gate checking is necessary on that plane (though from the looks of the bins in the picture you show, it will never be necessary on the CS100).

  7. Supposedly, the C series has a long range. Maybe this can open up some long and thin transcon or midcon routes like SJC-DTW or flights out of SEA that don’t have enough demand for a 737.

  8. 80% aisle or window seats along with adequate space for carry-ons and big windows = winner, winner chicken dinner!

  9. I’m sure Hawaiian will be keeping their interisland 717s flying as long as possible, but will the CS100 be a good replacement once the 717 is phased out?

    1. The C-Series is optimized for longer stage lengths than inter-island. The cool-down time on the engines are another factor that preclude optimal use on such short sectors. There really isn;t anything out there at the moment in the small-jet category that can match the 717. It will be interesting to see what, if anything will be offered for such a niche market.

      1. DHC8-400 (or ATR72). On the intra-island routes, the Q400 will eat any jet alive for seat-mile cost; and flight times will be within 5 minutes.

  10. One thing that caught my eye last week with the announcement was that Bombardier does their financial reporting in US Dollars. The weakness of the value of the Canadian currency being so low versus US greenbacks, maybe Delta standing on the sidelines waiting for the right time to take advantage of the strong dollar worked in their favor.

    1. The opposite I would think. Since BBD operates in USD, the exchange rate shouldn’t make any difference. In any event, the CAD is up 12% vs. the USD since January so any advantage is rapidly fading.

  11. OK, you’ve listed seat width. For me, it’s all about seat pitch, window seat headroom, aisle headroom. Any data comparing this aircraft with the 737-700?

    1. Jaybru – That’s not possible to compare since it’s entirely up to the airline. With seat width, it’s dictated by the width of the cabin. The wider cabin (that isn’t too wide to add another seat) will fit a wider seat. But for legroom, the airline makes that decision.

  12. Superb article and very positive feed back even before anyone tried them.
    Now, everybody in the Aviation World will watch the comments of the first commercial flight of CS100 by Swiss Air July 15, 2016. ”SWISS Outlines Initial CS100 Operations ”http://airwaysnews.com/blog/2016/04/21/swiss-outlines-initial-cs100-operations/

  13. There is a fair bit more to the timing than just some change in senior staff at Bombardier. The fall federal election win for the Liberals meant a halt to Porter’s jet plans for Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. While this negatively impacted Bombardier, which had a C-Series order tied to it, it wasn’t long before there was a commitment by the Province of Quebec to invest in the program along with an order by Air Canada — the biggest beneficiary of the Billy Bishop jets decision. This provincial commitment, along with the pressure for the federal government to do likewise and the order by AC, provides the C-Series program with some stability it didn’t have before.

    The importance of this shouldn’t be underestimated. Even with a fantastic price, I am not sure a carrier like Delta would be inclined to buy an aircraft if it wasn’t sure the order would be fully filled and supported through the lifetime of the aircraft. There is a lot more certainty there today than there was last summer.

  14. DELTA hit the baseball out of the park…the CS series will eventually save DL billions of $ in reducing fleet complexity…in the 100-160 seat range the CS100, CS300, CS500 will someday replace the MD88,MD90,737-700,A319, A320,717

  15. Thank you for the nice photo of an empty airline seat… I’m going to use it as a background for one of my Zoom meetings in the next week or so. (I’ve been using various airplane pictures for a few days… US 737-200, A Rossiya 747-400 with a tiger painted on the nose, a PSA L-1011… So this has been keeping my creativity and humor going.)

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