Bombardier has its first marquee customer for the CSeries but the circumstances of the deal with Air Canada appears to have been about more than airplanes.
The airline announced Wednesday that it will take at least 45 CS300 aircraft (the 150-seat version) and may buy another 30 aircraft, although some of those might be the 100-seat CS100.
The deal could be worth up to $3.8 billion and will take at least some financial and perceptual pressure off the company and its frontline product, which hasn’t recorded an order in more than a year.
Air Canada gets more than airplanes out of the deal. By committing to do heavy maintenance on the aircraft in Quebec (which is a major stakeholder in Bombardier now), the government has agreed to drop a lawsuit over Air Canada’s decision to close its maintenance division, which employed 2,600 people in Quebec.
The news was big enough to cause Transport Minister Marc Garneau to hold a news conference to extol the virtues of a deal that he later had to insist the federal government had no part of engineering. He told reporters there had been “no pressure” from Ottawa to convince Air Canada to buy the CSeries.
Nevertheless, Garneau seemed to be hitchhiking on the good news if not exactly taking credit for it and he certainly seemed well briefed on details of the complex deal.
Air Canada will start getting airplanes in 2017 and will replace the Embraer E75 and E90 aircraft it now uses on smaller routes with the Series. The purchase is part of a fleet renewal for the domestic and North American routes that also includes 61 Boeing 737 MAX airplanes.