JetBlue founder’s startup buys 60 Airbus jets in key step to getting airborne

JetBlue founder David Neeleman’s startup airline has taken a major step in its quest to become airborne.

The airline – currently known as “Moxy” in a presentation, according to industry publication Airline Weekly – purchased 60 new Airbus A220-300 jets on Tuesday, in a preliminary deal worth $5.4 billion at current list prices. The acquisition comes on the heels of a similar purchase by JetBlue, which also signed a deal with Airbus for 60 A220-300 aircraft.

“After years of U.S. airline consolidation, the conditions are improving for a new generation of U.S. airline to emerge, focused on passenger service and satisfaction,” Neeleman, who is the majority investor in the new venture, said in a statement.

Formerly known as Bombardier’s CSeries, the aircraft was renamed the A220 last week, weaving it into Airbus’ fleet, which includes the A320, A330, A350 and A380. The model Neeleman’s airline purchased typically seats 141 passengers and competes most closely with Boeing’s 737 MAX 7 jet.

“The A220 will enable us to serve thinner routes in comfort without compromising cost, especially on longer-range missions,” Neeleman said. “With deliveries starting in 2021, we will have ample time to assemble a world-class management team and another winning business model.”

The deal comes amid fierce competition in the commercial aviation sector, namely between Airbus and Boeing, the world’s largest airplane manufacturer. The two companies have already announced more than $43 billion in orders for their aircraft at the Farnborough Airshow in London this week, mostly single-aisle, which make up the majority of the world’s commercial travel space.

To challenge the A220 in the market for 100-150 seat jets, Boeing partnered with Embraer earlier this month to form a joint venture in which it will hold an 80% stake while the Brazilian plane maker will own the remaining 20%.