Air Canada poised for A320neo order

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Air Canada is expected to seek board approval for an order of Airbus A320neo family aircraft on 11 December.

The potential order includes an undisclosed number of the A320neo and the A321neo aircraft, sources close to the negotiations tell Flightglobal. These are understood to be replacements for the Montreal-based carrier’s existing A320 and A321 fleets.

Air Canada and Airbus decline to comment.

The airline has stated repeatedly that it would place a narrowbody order by the end of the year, with executives making the first such comments in August 2012.

The expected 11 December vote by the airline’s board fits this schedule.

Air Canada has said that the narrowbody order would include replacements of its existing A320, A321 and Embraer 190 fleets, and has confirmed discussions with Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and Embraer.

Calin Rovinescu, the carrier’s chief executive, told Flightglobal in June that the entire order would likely be for 60 to 90 aircraft.

Air Canada operates 36 A320s, 10 A321s and 45 E-190s – a total of 91 aircraft – Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database shows.

Michael Rousseau, chief financial officer of Air Canada, said in September that deliveries of a replacement for its A320s and A321s would likely begin late in the decade.

An order for a replacement of the E-190s is still likely.

Many analysts speculate that Air Canada may opt for Bombardier’s 110-seat CS100 or 130-seat CS300 for its smaller narrowbody needs.

RBC Capital Markets wrote that it believed that the carrier was seriously considering an order for 30 to 50 CSeries aircraft, in a 18 November research note.

The Canadian airframer has been pushing hard to sell the aircraft, especially since the first flight of the CS100 in September. The CS100 and CS300 combined have 117 firm orders and 193 options or letters of intent, according to Ascend.

Rovinescu outlined the possibility of splitting Air Canada's narrowbody order between its mainline and regional fleets at a conference in November.

“There are some advantages to having a single narrowbody fleet in the mainline operation, so we’re looking at that possibility, as well as some real advantages about having some intermediate product between the 75 seat and the 140 seat,” he said. “So we’re studying both scenarios as we look at the narrowbody decision and any subsequent discussion on scope would flow from that.”

Air Canada’s existing contract with its pilots limits regional affiliates to flying aircraft with up to 76 seats.

Additional reporting by Kristin Majcher.