Today marked the launch of the first Airbus A220 in North America. Delta’s inaugural A220 revenue flight from New York’s LaGuardia to Boston Logan was the first of 90 A220 aircraft that the airline will take delivery of through 2023. As I had written about last year, on paper, this is the most comfortable commercial single-aisle plane on the market.
(See: Delta Announces Initial Routes and Onboard Features For A220)
The first Delta A220 flight was actually supposed to start flying last Thursday, but because of the government shutdown and delays in certification, the inaugural was pushed to today. DL744 had a scheduled departure time in the pre-dawn hours of 6am—and I was along for the ride.
Inaugural Gate Festivities
Even at the ungodly hour of 4:45am, there was quite the buzz in the “shuttle” section of Terminal C where Delta runs their regular service to Boston and Washington D.C.
Gate C38 was this morning’s departure gate and it was fully decked out with a breakfast spread, podium and stage, photographers, and Delta and LaGuardia officials. This was my first inaugural where I was actually flying, and it was nice to see Delta pull out the stops. Just a couple hours later, a similar event happened in Dallas for the A220 flight departing to LaGuardia.
A220 Onboard Initial Impressions
The Airbus A220 Cabin
Delta’s version of the A220 is arranged in 2-2 configuration in First and a 2-3 configuration in both Comfort+ (extra legroom economy) and Main Cabin. Total capacity is 109 seats.
I was seated in 15B, an exit row with extra legroom. Seats in economy are the widest I’ve seen on a narrow-body and in real life, actually do feel a good amount wider. That one inch matters. The difference between a comparable seat on a Boeing 737 is noticeable and will be especially appreciated on longer hops.
The A220 has a range of over 3,000 miles which means it’s capable of doing transcontinental flights and even some shorter transatlantic journeys. While Delta doesn’t plan to fly this bird on flights quite that long, mid-continental routes like LaGuardia to Dallas and Houston are still in the 3-4 hour range.
Up front in First, things are slightly less revolutionary space-wise. However, nifty features like custom water bottle holders and additional storage under the armrest are nice touches.
Entertainment & Wi-Fi
Many airlines (cough…American…cough) are taking delivery of new planes without seatback entertainment, opting for faster satellite Wi-Fi that’s capable of streaming on your personal device instead. However, Delta is providing the option of seatback screens or fast streaming Wi-Fi. Consumer choice is always good.
Delta’s newest, state-of-the-art “wireless” entertainment systems by Gogo are incredibly responsive and had a wide selection of movies, TV shows, and games. I was most impressed with the customizable airshow by Rockwell Collins that had a range of flight viewing options to fulfill even the pickiest AvGeek. Unfortunately, unlike its big brother the Airbus A350, this A220 doesn’t have an external camera.
Wi-Fi was speedy, even at the most basic tier for $6. The Wi-Fi tier that was capable of streaming video was slightly more expensive at $10. Keep in mind that while this flight had Gogo 2Ku gate-to-gate Wi-Fi, we were in the air for less than 40 minutes so I’m not sure what pricing would look like for a longer flight.
Also, while I purchased service on my phone, I couldn’t get a connection on my laptop to do a speed test unfortunately.
The Lavatory Everyone Wants To Use
By far, the most amusing part of this flight was seeing the line of passengers who clamored to get to the lavatory. No, no one was getting sick from the pre-boarding breakfast spread. In fact, there weren’t many people actually using the toilet at all.
Most passengers just wanted a photo of the spacious economy lavatory that had a full-sized window. At one point, the line went down half the length of the aircraft and blocked crew from providing service (which was quickly resolved with an equally amusing announcement).
I think Delta and American’s culture towards its customers is summed up in how it created its newest economy bathrooms. On one hand, Delta has a lavatory where people are snapping selfies and American has one that people are avoiding at all costs. (See: Review: American’s Newest Plane, The Cramped 737 MAX)
Okay, so actually the most amusing part of the morning was seeing the reaction of perplexed Boston-bound commuters who had no idea what an “inaugural” was or why everyone was taking photos. But even these business travelers quickly got excited for taking part (unknowingly) in such a historic aviation moment.
The A220 (or Bombardier C Series as many still like to call it) is truly a customer-friendly aircraft. Windows are bigger. The cabin is quieter and more comfortable. The entertainment is top-notch. And Delta is differentiating itself in a big way by being the first North American carrier to take delivery of one. While many airlines are densifying their planes and frequent flyers are avoiding certain new aircraft, Delta customers can look forward to their airline’s newest birds.