DUBAI (Reuters) - Canadian planemaker Bombardier left the Dubai Airshow with pride restored after exhibiting its CSeries, but aware it faces a crucial task in revitalizing sales of the troubled jet.
Fred Cromer, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, reported growing interest in the long-delayed aircraft as it nears certification, and said he was confident that Bombardier could finalize a “sizeable order” with a big-name airline.
The future of Canada’s challenge to industry giants Airbus and Boeing was thrown into doubt earlier this year as the company bled cash, but Quebec last month agreed to invest $1 billion to help save jobs.
“Once you check a box, then that’s a step forward. You don’t have to worry about that anymore,” Cromer told Reuters at the Dubai Airshow, referring to the company’s improved finances.
“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a sigh of relief; it just means you’re moving onto the next box.”
Bombardier flew the CS100 aircraft to Dubai as part of a push to drum up dozens of orders ahead of the jet’s entry into service next year.
Cromer and other executives cited strong interest, including from the Gulf, but left without a deal in hand.
To maintain a credible presence, the company must now come up with fresh orders before the industry’s biggest gathering in Farnborough, UK, next July, senior industry sources said.
Sources familiar with the matter said the company was in talks with a large airline for “more than a few” jets.
Key targets are United Airlines and JetBlue as well as Air Canada, according to other sources.
Bombardier is also in talks that could result in additional sources of cash for the aerospace division, sources said.
Bombardier hopes to announce its next steps on aviation and rail activities at an investor conference on Nov. 24.
Cromer gave no details, saying only that Bombardier remained open to additional partnerships.
Talks to sell control of the CSeries to Europe’s Airbus collapsed after they became public last month.
Bombardier still aims to sell 300 jets before the plane enters into service in the first half of 2016. It currently has 243 firm orders for the new jet.
The narrowbody CSeries competes against the smallest Boeing 737 and Airbus A320-famly jets.
Cromer acknowledged Bombardier faced pressure on prices, but insisted the plane would succeed given its lower seat-per-mile operating costs.
Critics say the company is paying the price for failing to offer competitive enough discounts when the plane was launched.
Cromer, former president of International Lease Finance Corp, said Bombardier needed to price its planes aggressively but was not planning to cut those prices to “ridiculous” levels.
He said the company was also exploring alternative credit financing and leasing options to aid in marketing.
“We’re looking at partnerships if it’s good for Bombardier, but more importantly, if it’s good for our customers,” he said.
“You can find ways to get creative for the right deal.”
Additional reporting by Allison Lampert, Jeffrey Dastin, editing by David Evans