- Last Thursday, Delta Air Lines debuted its Airbus A220 jetliner on flights from New York to Boston and Dallas.
- The A220 began life as the Bombardier C Series but was rebranded after Airbus took over the program.
- We flew in the plane’s economy cabin during the launch flight. Then we went back to experience the Delta Airbus A220’s first-class cabin.
Last Thursday, Delta Air Lines debuted its Airbus A220 jetliner on flights from New York to Boston and Dallas.
It was a long-awaited US debut for the Canadian airliner. The airline had planned to introduce its A220 fleet at the end of January but was forced to delay the inaugural flight because of the lack of federal regulators during the government shutdown.
The A220 – a next-generation, 100-to-150-seat, carbon-composite airliner – entered service with Swiss and Air Baltic in 2016. Delta is the first in the Americas to operate the plane on commercial flights.
Unlike the larger Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A320neo families, the A220 is a clean-sheet design, meaning it’s not based on an existing airframe.
The A220 started life in 2004 when Canada’s Bombardier, the maker of private jets and small regional aircraft, decided it was time to make the jump into the big leagues.
By the early 2010s, Bombardier’s new jet had run into developmental delays, and the resulting financial trouble forced the company to take a $US1 billion bailout from the Quebec government in 2015.
In 2016, Bombardier booked an order for 75 C Series jets from Delta. One year later, Boeing filed a complaint with US Commerce Department and the US International Trade Commission alleging that the Delta C Series order was made possible only by abnormally low prices supported by Canadian government subsidies.
In total, Bombardier and Delta faced a 299.45% tariff on any Canadian-built C Series plane exported to the US. Facing the possibility of losing the most important order in the C Series program’s history, Bombardier turned to Boeing’s greatest foe, Airbus.
Less than a month after the tariff was announced, Bombardier handed 50.01% of its prized airliner program to Airbus with zero up-front cash investment coming from the European aviation giant.
In the summer of 2018, the Bombardier C Series was officially rebranded as the Airbus A220. This January, Delta ordered 15 additional A220s, bringing the airline’s tally to 90 aircraft.
Business Insider had the chance to experience the A220’s economy cabin on its first flight with Delta. Now we are experiencing the plane again, this time in first class.
Here’s a closer look.
Last Thursday, Delta launched its A220 service with a 6 a.m. flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Boston.
We had a chance to try the plane’s economy cabin, which impressed us with its roomy seats.
After a couple of hours in Boston, it was time to return to New York.
Here’s the A220 returning from New York to pick us up.
The plane operating the flight was N102DU, the second A220 delivered to Delta. The airline used the same plane and crew on both of my flights.
Delta’s ground crew checked out the new plane as well.
Time to get on the plane.
At the boarding door were a few not-so-subtle reminders of the A220’s Bombardier past.
We were greeted by a C Series welcome mat …
… and the plane’s Bombardier data plate.
Let’s step inside.
Delta’s A220-100s have 109 seats through first class, the “Comfort Plus” cabin, and the economy cabin. First class is set up with four seats per row, while the rest of the plane boasts five seats per row in a 3-2 configuration.
The A220’s first-class cabin features 21-inch-wide seats with 37 inches of pitch, the distance between two rows. Seat width and legroom are on par with the domestic first-class offerings of Delta’s larger Airbus A321 and Boeing 737-900ER aircraft.
Comfort Plus seats are 18.6 inches wide with 34 inches of pitch.
Delta’s economy seats are 18.6 inches wide with 32 inches of pitch. The A220’s economy and Comfort Plus seats are nearly 2 inches wider those on many of the McDonnell Douglas MD-88s it will replace on certain routes.
For this flight, I was in first class — seat 1A, to be exact.
It’s one of 12 first-class seats on board.
Waiting for me at my seat was a bottle of water, a pillow, and a blanket.
The space was more than sufficient for a domestic flight. The seats were comfortable enough, though I would have liked a little more cushion.
Shortly after boarding, we pushed back from the gate. The pilots fired up the A220’s pair of Pratt & Whitney PW1500G geared-turbofan engines, and we were on our way.
As the pilots throttled for takeoff, our plane came to life. The Airbus shot down the runway with ease.
After a short takeoff roll, we were off the ground. Through it all, the engines remained remarkably quiet.
The A220 soon climbed past the gloomy clouds and into the blue sky above.
Each seat on the A220 has an in-flight entertainment screen. Since I was in the first row, the screens were mounted to the bulkhead.
Each screen has an audio jack and a USB plug.
There was also a power plug on the inside of my armrest.
The screens show Delta’s new wireless in-flight entertainment system.
The system offers a good variety of movies …
… TV shows …
… live satellite TV …
… music …
… and a kids section …
… with adjustable background colours …
… as well as menus for food and beverages …
… a readout of different time zones …
… various airport maps …
… and a flight map. It was easy to use, and the screen quality was good.
Short hops between cities, like Boston to New York, tend to be bumpy affairs. Fortunately, we stayed above the weather and cruised smoothly.
These clouds reminded me of a sea of fluffy cotton balls or marshmallows.
My seat had an armrest-mounted collapsible tray table. You can unfurl it for meals …
… or fold it in half for drinks. Speaking of, Delta’s courteous cabin crew offered continuous drinks service before and during the flight. I went with a Coke, but alcoholic beverages are available as well.
Because the flight was short, full meal service was not available. But I did receive a yummy snack mix.
After the snack service, I stretched my legs at the front of the first-class cabin. To my right was the galley …
… and to my left were the crew seats …
… and the boarding door.
At the front of the passenger cabin, near the cockpit, is the first-class lavatory.
It’s pretty much the same size as the economy-class lavs.
As our flight drew to a close, I returned to my seat. We descended beneath the clouds and back into the grey.
Our flight made a smooth landing at LaGuardia.
At the gate, I looked back at the Delta Airbus A220.
Though our flight was very short, it was long enough for me to get a taste of the A220’s first-class product. Let’s just say I was impressed.
The aircraft delivered a smooth and whisper-quiet ride, while the in-flight entertainment and onboard amenities were top-notch, especially for a domestic flight.
The A220’s economy-class experience is markedly better than that of other Airbus, Boeing, and McDonnell Douglas narrow-body jets. The gap in the first-class experiences, while present, is less evident.
That said, the Delta Airbus A220 experience, on the whole, is an absolute triumph.
With a range of nearly 3,400 miles, the Airbus A220 can be deployed on transcontinental domestic flights, like between Boston and Seattle, normally operated by larger narrow-body jets like the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737. If I had the choice, I’d take the A220 all day, every day.
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