Bombardier sees strong niche market for all-premium CSeries

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Bombardier has identified a small, but potentially remunerative market for an all-business-class CSeries cabin and is working with interiors specialist and CSeries supplier C&D Zodiac to explore various low-density configurations for the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan-powered narrowbody.

"There are several airlines talking about using the CSeries in this way. It's not a large quantity of airplanes. It's not a large market, but it is a very lucrative market," Bombardier commercial aircraft president Gary Scott told ATI last month at the Dubai air show.

In standard iteration the five-abreast 100- to 125-seat CSeries CS100 and larger 120- to 145-seat CS300 will accommodate 47cm (18.5in) window and aisle seating, and a larger, 48.25cm (19in) middle seat.

"We optimized around five-abreast, but we built an airplane that's basically half a seat larger than the current five-abreast airplanes," says Scott, referring to the McDonnell Douglas DC-9, MD-80 and Boeing 717. "We're able to put these bigger seats in and put in a bigger aisle to give added comfort."

Making the CSeries cabin a crucial half-seat narrower than six-abreast aircraft, however, "was a conscious decision" that "allowed us to be 10,000lb (4,535.9kg) lighter than [similarly-sized] Boeing/Airbus products and we wanted to reap that advantage", says Scott. At the same time, he says, it allowed Bombardier to offer a cabin that is better suited to all-premium configurations than six-abreast Airbus or Boeing narrowbodies which have "wasted space".

Bombardier has not yet detailed the premium seating arrangements it has under consideration.

The manufacturer is also confident the CSeries will attract low-fares and start-up carriers. Many of the major airlines in the Middle East region, for instance, are now looking to expand their regional network, says Scott. "That is bringing a lot of interest to Bombardier."

But the airramer is not seeing an overwhelming push for ultra-high-density CSeries configurations.

"If anything we're seeing trends that airlines are starting to maybe compete a little bit again on passenger comfort, with customers talking about new configurations," says Bombardier vice president commercial aircraft programmes Ben Boehm.

The firm's seemingly minor decision to widen the middle seat could make an important impact on how passengers perceive the CSeries cabin.

"Passenger uneasiness is not generated by the people in front of you, separated by a wall of seat-backs, or in back of you. It is generated by the lateral closeness by the person that is actually going to touch you so the conclusion of some analysts and experts is that it makes no sense to give pitch to people. What you need is lateral freedom of space," notes air transport consultant Morten Müller.

The current five-abreast airplanes were built in the 60s, "so we're building for the 2020 to 2060 time period", adds Scott. Bombardier plans to have the CS100 enter service in 2013.