Air Baltic CEO says on track for A220 deliveries, as delays ease

MONTREAL (Reuters) - AirBaltic, the largest European customer for Airbus SE's AIR.PA A220, expects to have 14 of the 130-seat jets by year's end, as production issues and engine woes that once delayed deliveries have eased, the airline's chief executive said on Tuesday.

AirBaltic Airbus A220-300 aircraft is seen at the Riga International Airport, Latvia August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

Latvian-based AirBaltic, launch customer for the larger version of the jet formerly called the CSeries, has already received 11 A220-300 planes and is on track to take the remaining three by year’s end, CEO Martin Gauss said in an interview at the company’s Montreal-area assembly-site.

Canada's Bombardier BBDb.TO agreed to sell Airbus a 50.01 percent stake in its flagship commercial jet for a token fee of one Canadian dollar, after sluggish sales and low production rates pushed the program well over budget. The Canadian company retains a minority stake in the program after the deal's closing in July.

Bombardier said in April it was starting to make progress after wrestling with delivery delays because of an engine hold-up and general challenges as workers learned to make the 110-to-130 seat jet more efficiently.

Investors closely watch figures on aircraft orders and deliveries to help them accurately estimate revenues since airlines make the bulk of payments when planes are delivered.

“The aircraft are all coming as expected,” Gauss said. “Those were the starting issues. That’s not the issue anymore.”

Bombardier had previously forecast around 40 CSeries deliveries in 2018, up from 17 of the jets in 2017.

Airbus has said more recently it expects to double A220 deliveries from 2017.

Air Baltic has 50 firm orders for the jet as part of a strategy to move to a harmonized fleet and boost traffic and revenue by 2025.

Air Baltic expects to have 22 planes by the end of 2019, Gauss said.

Reporting by Allison Lampert; Editing by Dan Grebler