AirBaltic CEO Martin Gauss told ATW the Airbus A220-300 (former Bombardier CS300) has so far delivered higher-than-expected fuel savings. In addition, the launch operator has overcome many technical issues with the aircraft.

The Latvian national carrier, which started scheduled services with the type in December 2016, has operated enough flights to see what the aircraft can do.

We can confirm the fuel burn savings is higher than expected—a positive surprise,” Gauss said. He explained that at current fuel prices of $800 per ton, a 22% fuel savings on each flight sector is a significant amount of money.

The main technical issue for airBaltic has been an engine upgrade program, which is now under control. However, since December 2016, airBaltic had to perform 50 Pratt & Whitney PW1500G engine changes on its A220 fleet related to the upgrade program, which is supported by P&W, COO Martin Sedlacky told ATW.

Gauss expects that in 2019 Airbus will be able to deliver many more aircraft as the production line has matured and is running at full speed.

“So far, we have transported 1.7 million passengers with this fleet, meaning the majority of our passengers now will be transported with A220s,” Gauss told ATW.

AirBaltic, which received its 12th A220 on Oct. 12, is adding one more of the type this year and has eight additional aircraft scheduled for delivery through the end of 2019. “The new aircraft are no longer late in terms of delivery. The delivery stream today is on time,” he said.

Gauss said the transition process to an all-A220 operator will create a lot of cost and work over the next years … “which is planned for [financially], but when this is over we will significantly benefit, especially from fuel burn savings.”

He said the higher fuel prices rise, the bigger savings the A220 will provide.

“If we could get the additional aircraft faster from the manufacturer, we would benefit more. Still we have a three-aircraft type complexity and we would love to have this integration process already behind us.”

AirBaltic will phase out its last Boeing 737 Classic—there are 11 currently in service—in 2020. The airline will phase out its fleet of 12 Bombardier Dash 8Q400s by 2023. All aircraft will be replaced with A220-300s, which airBaltic expects to have 80 in service by 2025.

Kurt Hofmann,