JetBlue talks pick up with planemakers over replacing jets

FILE PHOTO: JetBlue Airways logo is displayed on a monitor in Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy International Airport during a terminal test in New York August 23, 2008. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

MONTREAL/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jet Blue Airways Corp JBLU.O met with Canadian planemaker Bombardier Inc BBDb.TO and also had plans to meet with Brazil's Embraer SA EMBR3.SA this month, according to an internal email reviewed by Reuters, in a signal that talks are picking up for the U.S. airline's closely watched sales campaign.

Low-cost carrier JetBlue has previously said it is weighing whether to replace its fleet of about 60, 100-seater E-190 jets, in a campaign pitting Bombardier’s CSeries against its Brazilian rival’s latest model, the E190-E2.

JetBlue officials also met Bombardier Chief Executive Alain Bellemare at the company’s Montreal-area plant on Monday, said an industry source, confirming earlier media reports. The source said JetBlue had not finalized a deal with either planemaker.

A spokeswoman for Bombardier declined to comment on a sales campaign.

JetBlue said in a statement it is “exploring a full range of options from maintaining the current fleet to a full replacement with an alternative aircraft type.”

Embraer is determined to keep JetBlue as a key customer, while Bombardier wants to grow sales in the United States after a trade agency ruled the Canadian plane-and-train-maker could sell its 110-to-130 seat CSeries to American carriers duty-free following a dispute with Boeing Co BA.N.

The Feb. 17 email says “the Bombardier team was in to discuss product support and maintenance for its C Series. And later this month, we’ll have a chance to take a close-up look at the Embraer E2.”

It was not clear whether JetBlue already saw the E2 and a spokesman for Embraer could not immediately answer Monday night.

In January, JetBlue said it would prolong an internal review over the future of its fleet at a time of an evolving landscape for commercial aviation. Embraer is now holding tie-up talks with Boeing and Bombardier is working to complete a deal giving a majority stake in the CSeries to Airbus SE AIR.PA.

Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Alana Wise in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker