Interest in proposed 160-seat CSeries gathers pace with budget carriers

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Bombardier's proposed assault on the low-cost market with a high-density configured CSeries is gaining momentum as the variant emerges as a genuine contender against the Airbus and Boeing re-engined single-aisles in several budget carrier evaluations.

The 160-seat version of the larger of the two CSeries variants, the CS300 broke cover in July when it emerged that it had been proposed to AirAsia. It is now also known to be under evaluation by Vueling, Flydubai and EasyJet.

Spanish low-fare carrier Vueling had been running an evaluation of the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families, but widened the appraisal to consider the CSeries after the emergence of an offer of the 160-seat version, says chief executive Alex Cruz. He adds that "a CS300 with 160 seats...could suit" Vueling. "We were not expecting to have a long conversation with Bombardier but they responded well," he says.

EasyJet has been examining the CSeries as part of an evaluation for expansion and replacement of its 156-seat A319s in a competition that includes the A320neo and 737 Max. Like Vueling, it is believed to be close to finalising its selection. It would look at the CS300 variant with a minimum of 150 seats.

The CS300 is notionally a 130-145 seater, but Bombardier says that "with slim seats that allow for a 28in pitch, the CS300 airframe has the flexibility of accommodating 160 seats".

It adds that the "potential configuration" has been presented to customers to gauge interest. "A decision however to proceed with such a variant remains under consideration and will be dictated by customer demand," says Bombardier.

Bombardier declines to provide specific operating cost comparisons between the 160-seat CS300 and its Airbus and Boeing rivals. However, it told Flight International that the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G-powered CS300 has a 20% lower cost per seat over the current-generation CFM International CFM56-powered A319 and an 18% cost-per-trip advantage over the larger A320neo for the same cost per seat.

Industry sources say that the 160-seat version is a genuine threat in a head-to-head competition against a high-density A319neo and 737 Max 7. As well as having a weight advantage over its heavier mainline rivals, the 160-seat CS300 also offers additional passenger capacity over both. In a high-density arrangement the A319neo will seat a maximum of 156 passengers and 737 Max 7 149 passengers.

  • Additional reporting by Alex Thomas and Olivier Bonnassies