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Air Canada to use Mirabel-built A220s on new Montreal-Seattle route


‘The A220 has the range and the economics to open a route like Montreal-Seattle’ Mark Galardo of Air Canada said

MONTRÉAL, Que. —

Air Canada is taking Bombardier’s brainchild right into Boeing country.

Starting in May, Canada’s largest airline will deploy its newest jet model, the Airbus A220, on a new non-stop route linking Montreal’s Trudeau airport to Seattle — the western U.S. city that is home to Boeing’s largest factories. Assembled in Mirabel, the A220 was previously known as the Bombardier C Series before the Montreal-based company handed the program over to Airbus last year.

Air Canada will become the first North American carrier to fly the larger version of the jet, the A220-300, which has a range of 3,200 nautical miles. Delta Air Lines of the U.S. operates the smaller A220-100 on such routes as New York-Houston and Seattle-San Jose, Calif. Air Canada will also fly to San Jose with the A220, from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

Carriers like the A220 because of its lower operating costs — mostly the result of the fuel-efficient Pratt & Whitney engines that power the jet — compared with older aircraft like the 146-seat Airbus A320 or the 97-seat Embraer E190. The Bombardier-designed plane is also quieter and less polluting.

“The A220 has the range and the economics to open a route like Montreal-Seattle, where the older generation aircraft like the A320 are simply too large, and the demand is not high enough,” Mark Galardo, Air Canada’s vice-president of network planning, told the Montreal Gazette in a telephone interview. “A smaller airplane like the Embraer doesn’t have the range.”

With a population of more than 3.5 million, Seattle ranks as the 15th-largest U.S. metropolitan area. Amazon.com, Starbucks and papermaker Weyerhaeuser are all headquartered in the city, while Microsoft is based in nearby Redmond, Wash. Air Canada already serves Seattle from Vancouver and Toronto.

“We’ve got our sights set on Seattle because it’s a city that’s growing economically, with a lot of headquarters,” Galardo said. “It’s the right fit all around.”

Air Canada is poised to receive its first A220 in December, having ordered 45 of the jets from Bombardier in 2016 . It will operate the planes in a two-class configuration with 137 seats — 12 in business class and 125 in economy. Compared with older models, the A220 features larger windows, bigger overhead stowage bins and the widest economy seats in Air Canada’s fleet.

Besides serving new city pairings such as Montreal-Seattle, the A220 will also be deployed on existing short-haul Canada-U.S. routes to replace the carrier’s E190s. Secondary Canadian cities including Edmonton and Halifax may also benefit as Air Canada introduces new routes that would have been unprofitable otherwise, Galardo said.

“To have an aircraft of that size, with that kind of range, opens up a lot of possibilities for us,” he said. “From Montreal, the A220 can basically fly to any point in continental North America, which is huge for us. Currently, the older generation of the A320 doesn’t have that capability, and neither does the E190.”

Though he’s excited at the prospect of seeing the new aircraft join the Air Canada fleet, Galardo admits he will miss the A320s — some of which have been in service since the 1990s.

“It gives us a lot of hardship to see those airplanes leave the fleet,” Galardo said. “They’ve been reliable, steady workhorses.”

ftomesco@postmedia.com

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