Lion Air Considering Purchase of Bombardier C-Series

Indonesian based low cost carrier, Lion Air, the largest low-cost airline in Southeast Asia has disclosed that it is in the process of finalising an order for the highly anticipated Bombardier C-Series aircraft. 
bombardier c series lion air
Image Source: Airline Reporter
The first Bombardier C-Series aircraft just completed a successful first flight last month in Montreal, Canada. The C-Series is the world's first new narrow-body design in 27 years. The aircraft is designed to offer up to 20 percent fuel savings and 15 per cent lower overall operating costs over current competing aircraft from Airbus and Boeing. This could make the aircraft a game changer in an industry where fuel typically accounts for up to 40 percent of costs, the largest single expense of an airline's total costs.

According to Rusdi Kirana, Chief Executive of Lion Air, the airline is keen on the CS300 model, the largest variant of the C-Series family that can seat up to 160 passengers in a low cost carrier configuration. "The aircraft is suited for our operations," said Kirana. "It looks good, and we like what we saw." He added that officials from Lion Air will be meeting with Bombardier this month and expects to place an order in the double-digit range with deliveries to begin in 2016. "We are trying to close the deal by year-end," Kirana added. Lion Air's Chief Executive was in Montreal for the aircraft's first flight and spent at least two hours learning about the C-Series. The airline is eyeing a firm order rather than a letter of intent. 

Lion Air made headlines in the aviation industry when the airline placed some of the largest orders for aircraft in history. Last March, the airline placed an order for 234 Airbus narrow body aircraft while in February 2012, the carrier placed an order with Boeing for up to 201 Boeing 737 Max aircraft. 

While the carrier will not disclose which routes it is planning to operate the C-Series on as it needs time to study potential markets, a company spokesman disclosed that the aircraft is ideal for long thin routes domestically and internationally. "We are interested to operate the CS300 on long thing routes both domestically in Indonesia and internationally," said the spokesperson. "We see that the size of the C-Series could be useful. Presently, we operate 72-seat ATR72 aircraft and 189-seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft and 215-seat Boeing 737-900ERs. So for us the C-Series fills a gap between the ATR72 and the 737-800."

Philippine carriers Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines may soon find themselves in a similar position. While both carriers operate turbo-prop aircraft seating approximately 70 passengers, each airline has also placed extensive orders from Airbus for new A321 aircraft. Cebu Pacific will be configuring its aircraft in a single class economy layout with 220 seats while Philippine Airlines will be configuring its aircraft in a 199 seat two-class layout. PAL plans to use its fleet primarily on international routes across the Asian region and selected domestic flights while Cebu Pacific will fly its aircraft across its expanding pan-Asian network. 

Both airlines will eventually need to consider replacement aircraft for its ageing fleet of Airbus A319, A320, and turbo-prop aircraft. The Bombardier C-Series is a direct competitor of the A319. In addition, the C-Series is capable of taking off and landing at airports that Airbus aircraft are unable to use due to runway constraints. The C-Series CS100 model is capable of taking off at maximum take off weight with just 3,999 feet of runway while landing at maximum landing weight requires just 4,400 feet. The Airbus A319 requires 7,100 feet of runway to take off at maximum take off weight. The CS100 also opens up new route opportunities as it carries a maximum range of 5,463 kilometres that is unparalleled by any other aircraft in its class. 

There are a number of airports in the Philippines that are unable to handle Airbus aircraft due to runway limitations. These airports include Busuanga, Basco, El Nido, Naga, Virac, and Caticlan among many others. The limitations of these airports have created new opportunities for specially designed aircraft with short take off and landing ability like the British Aerospace 146 operated by SkyJet Airlines. The Bombardier C-Series is likely to be an aircraft that Philippine carriers will want to consider in the future given the limitations of the country's airports and limited resources for timely infrastructure development.   

Meanwhile, Lion Air plans to end 2013 with a fleet of 100 aircraft. The airline currently has more than 400 aircraft on order. In the Philippines, Lion Air affiliate Wings Air operates seasonal flights between Davao and Manado.


  1. Bombardier's new aircraft will force the duopoloy to head in the same direction a little faster than anticipated. And they will, Boeing and Airbus don't take to competition lightly. That aside, Bravo for the Canadians. Often in business the smaller guy's angst forces the big boys to do better.

  2. Wings Air does NOT operate regular flights between Davao and Manado.

  3. Thank you for catching this. It is a seasonal charter. We have corrected the article.

  4. "The C-Series is the world's first new narrow-body design in 27 years."
    I believe the Sukhoi Superjet predates the C-Series.

    1. The C-Series was first conceived as the Bombardier BRJ-X announced at Farnborough in 1998. Development of the Superjet did not begin until 2000.


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