It was, and is regarded as a mistake, and this sentiment is far more common at JBLU beyond the pilots. As you've alluded to this entire thread, the vast majority of the JetBlue E190 network could handle an A320. It's superior cost per seat would allow them to go down the fare structure and either stimulate new demand or capture more share of existing traffic. The very few routes that truly can't handle an A320, but have sufficient demand at a high enough fare for a smaller aircraft, should simply be operated on A319's. Much simpler for the operation and you extract a lot of fixed cost out of the system.
Ever wonder when JetBlue's CASM problem started, and why they haven't been able to shake it? It pretty clearly started exactly in 2005, with the introduction of the E190. There are lots of reasons why they haven't been able to shake it, but it's continued presence has played a big role in not being able to fix it. The A220 will have better unit economics than the E190, but it won't match the A320neo and they will still retain all of the complexity costs.
What's remarkable is that JetBlue didn't seem to learn the lesson of fleet complexity with the E190, instead opting for continued fleet complexity with the A220. In fact, for the entire early to mid 2020's they will increase the complexity in the fleet by operating 3 distinct families.
Yet they decided to go with A220-300 over A319/A320. E90 is a high CASM aircraft, A220 is not. A220 is going to replace a320 on many routes.
By JetBlue's own numbers. E90 CASM is 20% higher than A320 in stage length adjusted basis. In fact total operating cost of A220 is about the same as E90 despite the extra FA + 40 extra passengers. A220 CASM is 30% lower than E90. So if E90 CASM is 1.2, then A320 is 1 and A220-300 would be 0.84. So A220-300 CASM is 16% lower than 150 seat A320. Even if a 162 seat A320NEO have 10 to 15% lower CASM than A320CEO of 150 seats, it would still have higher CASM than A220-300 while having to fill extra 22 seats. Simple math that shows why B6 will never take another A320, but will likely pick up all 60 A220 options. In fact, a hypothetical A220-500 would have CASM close to A321NEO.
My guess is E90 will stick around past 2025. So B6 will most likely be operating 3 types for a while. AS is operating multiple types of aircraft, they are managing their cost pretty well. The few % point of higher CASM from extra types is compensated by the higher RASM of completely paid for E90 on those short routes and the very low CASM of A220.
You make some good points. The A220 costs will drive many (most?) A320 operators to more A321s.
If there was an A220-500, one would have expected a different NK order. But there isn't.
As much as I am a fan of the A220-300, there is a simplicity cost advantage. It seems NK didn't need that many small aircraft.
JetBlue did. The fact there is near cost parity for the A220-300 and E190 does not bode well for the later.
I've definitely become an A220 fanboy since B6 kind of announced to the world how low the cost is.
It's kind of interesting that because JetBlue has already undertaken the move of adding a second type, they were willing to stick with 2 types (or maybe even 3 if E90 doesn't retire for a while) when deciding between E2, A220 and A319. Whereas since NK and WN have always been single type fleet, the cost of moving away from that seems to be greater. Haven't thought about that before.
Seems like there are two different costs here:
the cost of adding a new type and also the cost of moving away from single fleet type.
So based on my calculation, the total cost of A320CEO with 3 FA is about 25% higher than the total cost of operating E90 and A220. Given that there is minimal capital cost for E90, they still make sense going forward for certain shuttle routes unless the cost of maintaining them gets exponentially higher. From that, I would estimate the cost of A320NEO with 4 FA to be somewhere around 20% higher (assuming 16% fuel efficiency of NEO over CEO). And the total cost of 737-800 with 4 FA to be around 32% higher (based on 2% higher total cost of 737-800 over A320 along with 2 to 3% extra cost of FA. 1.25 * 1.055 around 1.32). If we assume 40% of total cost of a flight to be fuel (that's what B6 used when calculating cost of A220) and that fuel efficiency of MAX over NG is 14%, then total cost of 7M8 would be 1.32 * (0.6 + 0.4 * 0.86) = 1.246.
So using that for B6, let's say for simplicity total cost of 140 seat A220 is 140. Then the per seat cost of E90 would be 1.4 or 40% higher. The per seat cost of 162 seat, 4 FA A320CEO would be 140 * 1.27 / 162 = 1.097 or 9.7% higher. The per seat cost of 165 seat, 4 FA A320NEO would be 1.02 or 2% higher. Of course, the RASM for A220 with fewer seat to fill and wider/more comfortable interior would bring in much higher margins.
NK is a little more interesting. They can probably fill 150 seat for 3 FA or 160 seat for 4 FAs. Let's say they go for a more compact layout of 160 seat and the total cost add 3% in cost with the extra FA and luggage. For simpliity let's estimate total cost of 160 seat A220 to be 160. Then the per seat cost of A320NEO would be 160 * 1.2 / 1.03 / 182 = 1.024. (1.03 is for the 3% added cost) So I still estimate cost of A320NEO per seat to be higher. If they go with 150 sat. Then the per seat cost of A320NEO would be 150 * 1.2 / 182 = 0.989, or slightly less than 150 seat A220. Of course, if you add the extra cost of additional type, the calculation changes. So for NK, the need for an extra FA on a more dense A220 may make it less attractive.
And then WN. Let's say WN go for a 143 seat A220 since they may be able to squeeze in another half row vs B6 due to fewer Y+ seats. And let's say for simplicity total cost 143 seat A220 is 143. Then the per seat cost of 175 seat 7M8 would be 143 * 1.24 / 175 = 1.013. So again, on a standalone basis, A220 would have lower cost than 7M8. I'm not privy to how much it would cost WN to move away from single fleet type so this is just calculation without factoring that in.
Either way, seems strange to me that not more people are picking up A220s given its economics. And that doesn't even factor in possible higher RASM from the comfortable interiors.