Soon, Delta flyers will get a nice whiff of that new plane smell. The airline recently took delivery of its first of 75 Airbus A220s—complete with an inaugural test drive (errr, test flight). This past week, the OG Delta A220 took its maiden voyage from the assembly line facility just outside Montreal in Mirabec, Quebec.
It’s the first step for Delta before they begin commercial operations for the A220 in early 2019.
What’s Delta Planning With This Fresh Ride?
Delta currently operates the oldest fleet of planes in the U.S. The truth is most customers wouldn’t even know how old their plane is based on how well Delta has refurbished the interiors (read: seat-back screens and mood lighting).
However, older planes are harder to maintain and much less fuel efficient. That’s why like many other airlines, Delta is in the midst of a huge fleet upgrade with ongoing deliveries of the internationally-configured Airbus A350 and now, the A220—set to officially fly next year.
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Delta CEO Ed Bastian confirmed that the A220 will not only replace aging dinosaurs like the MD88, but also take over routes that are currently operated by regional planes like the Embraer E175. New York’s LaGuardia Airport is expected to receive the initial batch of Airbus A220 to do business-heavy routes such as to Dallas and Austin.
[CONFIRMED as of 10/12/18]:
Here are the routes that Delta says will initially feature the A220:
- New York LGA to Boston as of January 2019
- New York LGA to Dallas as of January 2019
- Detroit to Dallas as of March 2019
- New York LGA to Houston as of April 2019
- Salt Lake City to Dallas as of May 2019
- Minneapolis to Dallas as of June 2019
- Houston to Detroit and Minneapolis as of July 2019
- Houston to Salt Lake City as of July 2019
- New York JFK to Dallas as of August 2019
The Delta A220 will have a total of 109 seats, including 12 first class seats, 15 Comfort+ seats, and 82 economy seats. The plane will be the first A220 in production to feature seatback entertainment at every seat and Gogo 2Ku Wi-Fi. Seats in economy will be an impressive 18.6″ wide, making them the widest economy seats of any narrow-body.
A Rebrand That Saved An Aircraft
It wasn’t long ago that the 100-ish seater Airbus A220 was a child of a different family name—the Bombardier CSeries. That changed earlier this year when Airbus took a majority stake in the CSeries program, which included the CS100 and its slightly bigger brother CS300.
In 2015, Bombardier was actually forced to write down $4.4 billion and take a $1 billion bailout from the Quebec government. Even as it struggled to close a sale, Bombardier was credited with building an aircraft that’s one of the most capable on the market today.
Fast forward to 2018. While Airbus had no hand in research and development, they took the lead in marketing and sales. That included a rebrand, with the company promptly renaming the aircraft to the A220. Nothing like some good brand recognition to get customers (airlines) to buy your product (a plane).
Delta will become only the fourth airline in the world to take delivery of the A220, and by far has the largest order placed. The aircraft has already received rave reviews, even from our own Executive Editor, John Harper. Notable are:
- 50% larger windows that create an airy cabin
- A 2 x 3 seat configuration (fewer middle seats!)
- Wider seats with at least 18″ width (Looking at you Boeing 737 with 17″)
This is the very plane that caused Boeing to throw a temper tantrum and file a complaint with the US Commerce Department. They asserted that Canadian officials were providing unfair subsidies to support the (then) Bombardier program. Well, Boeing lost that battle. And more competition is good for the airlines—and for consumers too.
While we don’t know Delta’s exact A220 configuration, it will certainly be better than American’s latest single-aisle aircraft, the 737 MAX. I reviewed that plane in economy and while it wasn’t as bad as reviewers say it is, it’s still not customer-friendly. Delta is widening its gap as a more passenger-experience focused airline, even in economy. A more comfortable airplane for everyone is a win in my book.
This is the first single-aisle airplane to really get excited about in quite some time. The A220 seems to have created itself a nice Goldilocks niche–more seats than a regional plane but less than a typical single-aisler.