I flew first-class in Delta’s year-old A220, the plane Boeing tried to keep out of the US

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A Delta Air Lines Airbus A220 (not the one that operated the author’s flight). Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider
  • The Airbus A220 is an advanced, efficient, comfortable 109-seat airliner that entered service in the US with Delta in February, 2019.
  • The plane, which began life as the Bombardier C Series, is designed to fill the market gap between midsize regional jets and workhorse narrow-body jets like the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320. It can also be used to replace larger regional jets.
  • I’ve flown in the A220 a couple of times, on a short flight from Boston’s Logan Airport to New York’s LaGuardia Airport, in the first-class cabin thanks to frequent-flyer upgrades.
  • I was impressed by just about every aspect of the plane and found it a pleasant upgrade over the regional jets that usually operate that flight. Read on to learn more about what flying on the jet is like.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Airbus A220 was one of the most controversial and highly anticipated new planes to launch in recent memory.

The 100-seat jet was originally designed by the Canadian plane- and train-maker Bombardier and sold as the C Series jet. In 2016, Delta placed an order for several C Series planes to replace some of its ageing regional jets.

But in 2017, the American manufacturer Boeing filed a complaint with the US Commerce Department and the US International Trade Commission, claiming that Bombardier was selling the jets for an abnormally low price to undercut Boeing and using Canadian government subsidies to make up for the loss.

The two agencies agreed and imposed a massive penalty tariff on the jets – nearly 300% in total – that would have made the C Series prohibitively expensive, in effect keeping it out of the US market. Boeing claimed that the C Series was a direct competitor for the smaller variants of its 737; however, the two variations of the C Series seat only 110 to 130 passengers, while the smaller Boeing 737 NG planes fit 125 to 150 passengers.

But less than a month later, Bombardier found a way around the tariff, selling 50.01% of the C Series program to France’s Airbus – Boeing’s primary rival in the large commercial aircraft market – with no up-front cash investment. That transfer of majority ownership rendered the ITC ruling on the subsidies moot.

In summer 2018, the Bombardier C Series was officially rebranded as the Airbus A220.

While the A220 – as the C Series – entered service with Swiss Air Lines in 2016, it didn’t start flying in the US until 2019 with Delta, its US launch customer.

Business Insider reviewed the very first US A220 flight in February of that year and a longer flight a little while later.

However, on a few recent trips between New York and Boston (before the COVID-19 pandemic), I had the chance to fly on the A220 to see how the plane is holding up and whether it still impresses. I also got a complimentary upgrade to first class thanks to my Delta SkyMiles frequent-flyer status. (I flew a lot last year.)

While first class may be overkill for the one-hour flight between Boston and New York, the plane was immediately impressive – and the comfortable first-class seat was obviously a nice treat.

Here’s what the A220 is like today.


I got to Boston’s Logan Airport with a bit of time to spare, so I went upstairs to the Sky Club lounge — I have a credit card that comes with Sky Club access as a perk.

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I had a snack from the buffet and settled down on a couch with my iPad to catch up on some work.

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A few minutes before my boarding time, I made my way down to the gate, which was quite crowded — maybe that had something to do with the fact that it was across from Legal’s Test Kitchen, where you can buy a live lobster to bring home with you on your flight?

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There it is, the CS100, or A220-100, Tail No. N110DU, taking me on the short flight to LaGuardia Airport in New York.

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I made my way down the jet bridge in the first boarding group (after people who needed a little extra time to board).

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Despite the rebranding of the C Series as the A220, there was a nod to the former name at the boarding door.

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Here’s the right-hand side of the first-class cabin …

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… and here’s my window seat, 2D. The business-class cabin consists of just three rows, each with four seats in a 2-2 configuration.

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Economy class is in a 3-2 configuration, making the A220 perfect if you’re travelling with someone else and don’t want a third seatmate.

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Here’s a photo of a standard three-seat economy row that a colleague took earlier in 2019. Economy seats are about 18.6 inches wide, with 30 to 32 inches of pitch. That’s roomier than you’d find on most other regional jets and more in line with a workhorse 737 NG.

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A bragging point of the A220 is its spacious overhead storage bins, which can fit most standard carry-on bags that you’d usually bring aboard a larger plane. That should make for fewer instances of passengers being surprised when their bags don’t fit.

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I’ve heard some grumbling online that while the coach seats are impressive for a regional jet, the first-class seats feel relatively cramped. However, that’s not what I found at all.

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According to Delta, first-class seats on the A220 are 20.5 inches wide with 37 inches of pitch, and it certainly felt like plenty of legroom.

For comparison, first-class seats in Delta’s Bombardier-made regional CRJ-900 are 19.6 inches wide with 37 inches of pitch, and in the Embraer ERJ-175 they’re 20 inches wide with 37 inches of pitch.

Shifting to non-regional single-aisle aircraft, first-class seats on Delta’s 737-800 are 20.5 inches wide with 36 to 38 inches of pitch, and on the A320 they’re 21 inches wide with just 36 inches of pitch.


Each seat had an air nozzle and a reading light, though I didn’t need the latter on this bright daytime flight.

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The large in-flight entertainment monitor could be tilted, a feature I definitely appreciated as it helped fight the glare of open window shades. The screen had a built-in headphone jack and a USB port that you could use to charge your phone.

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Incidentally, Delta announced this week that more than 700 of its aircraft had in-flight entertainment screens and that the screens would continue to be installed on newly delivered aircraft.

At a time when airlines have been cutting back on the screens in favour of BYOD (bring your own device), Delta said customer reaction had been overwhelmingly positive.


Next to the screen was a retractable hook for a jacket or sweatshirt.

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There were also two universal plugs.

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I pulled out my iPad and noticed that WiFi was already available. On most Delta flights, WiFi isn’t active until you’re above 10,000 feet. I hadn’t seen the A220 advertised as having gate-to-gate WiFi, so this was an unexpected treat.

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My seatbelt had an airbag component. Some people find these uncomfortable, but I didn’t even notice the airbag once I’d buckled the seatbelt.

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There was an extra-wide armrest between the seats, with some storage space and the button to recline the seat (after takeoff, of course).

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In the front of the armrest and down at seat level, there was a water-bottle holder with mini bottles waiting for us. This was actually pretty easy to miss. I didn’t spot it for a few minutes.

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There was one thing I found annoying: The seats didn’t quite line up with the rails used to mount them to the cabin floor. I had only one bag with me, and I put it in the overhead compartment — but if I had wanted to store a bag under my seat, this would have cut down on the space available.

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First-class passengers got a small pillow and a plastic-wrapped blanket. Always appreciated, though I ended up just tucking them out of the way between my seat and the bulkhead.

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As the plane’s 100 passengers were boarding, the flight attendant in the first-class cabin came around and offered drinks before departure. I had a beer, a Sweetwater 420 ale.

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A few minutes later, the boarding door closed, and the flight attendant set the cabin lighting from a handy touchscreen.

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After a quick safety video …

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… and a quick taxi to the runway …

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… and a quick takeoff roll …

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… we were in the air …

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… and on our way.

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It was a beautiful day, and the A220’s larger-than-average windows let plenty of light into the cabin for our roughly 45 minutes in the air.

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I was planning to read a few articles rather than watch any in-flight entertainment, so I set my screen to the “flight show.” This was definitely a new and improved version of what most Delta planes have — it was interactive and responsive, with about 10 view options.

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I was a fan of the “command centre” view.

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The A220 is powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney PW1500G turbofan engines. On a regional 100-seater jet, the engines are usually annoyingly loud, but the A220 is a relatively quiet ride.

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A few minutes after takeoff, our flight attendant came around to see if anyone wanted another drink. I mean, if you’re offering …

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I ended up not using the tray table on this incredibly short flight, since the middle armrest in first class has space to put a drink, but here’s where it folds out from the other armrest.

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There was only one disappointing thing about the first-class cabin. The A220 has three lavatories: one in first class, and two in the rear of the plane. The pilot-side lavatory in coach is notable because it’s one of the few aeroplane lavatories with a window. Since I was in first class, I didn’t get to appreciate that novelty.

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Here’s a photo of that rear-lavatory window from a colleague’s flight a few months ago.

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After what felt like just a few minutes (actually, it really was just a few minutes — the BOS-LGA flight is so short), we began our descent …

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… and touched down at LaGuardia.

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It was the end of my first A220 flight, and I must say: I’m a fan.

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Sadly, it wasn’t the end of my journey. Thanks to LaGuardia’s construction, it would take me a while to get home.

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With the walk to the taxi shuttle bus, the bus ride itself, and the time it took the taxi to get out of the airport, the 9 1/2-mile trip from Queens to Brooklyn was longer and less comfortable than the flight from Boston to New York.

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Outside-airport traffic aside, the flight was a fantastic experience. The plane was incredibly comfortable compared with just about every other jet serving the 100-seat market, including the Bombardier CRJs and the Embraer RJs of yesteryear.

While the A220 is meant as an eventual replacement for the larger of these, its range and efficiency give it a niche that’s more in between the regional jets and the mainline narrow-bodies, seating just 100 or so passengers but capable of flying coast to coast.

That potential is evident in the fact that Delta just scheduled the A220 for a daily flight between Atlanta and Seattle. While a flight that long on a regional jet would be unpleasant, to say the least, the A220 should be a perfectly comfortable ride.