The Delta A220 Will Be The Nicest Single-Aisle Plane

by Chris Dong

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 Air Lines A220 paint shop

A wide angle view of Delta’s A220, nose-on, still in the shop. Image by Delta .

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

Delta Bombardier CS300 Airbus A220

Delta’s first of 75 Boeing A220s. Photo: Delta

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″)

See: The Bombardier CS100 Is A Great Ride, Delta Fliers Look Forward

Swiss Air's CS100 (now A220) has 18.5" seat width. Compare to 17" for a Boeing 737.

Swiss Air’s CS100 (now A220) has 18.5″ seat width. Compare to 17″ for a Boeing 737.

The Upshot

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.

Last row on the 737 MAX. Image by Chris Dong

Last row on AA’s 737 MAX.

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.

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Garrett October 11, 2018 - 12:23 pm

Is there ANYTHING available about the interiors? Will they have IFE?

Chris Dong October 11, 2018 - 3:41 pm

WiFi will be faster and more reliable (not satellite based) and rumors floating around it may be free. Also nothing confirmed in terms of IFE, but with Delta senior management emphasizing the importance of seat-back screens, I have a hunch these will be included.

Chris Dong October 12, 2018 - 3:55 pm

And my hunch was correct. Delta announced IFE at every seat in today’s press release:

747always October 12, 2018 - 3:02 am

Those seats at the rear bulkhead look very cramped. Guess its a function of the bulkhead jutting out.

Chris Dong October 12, 2018 - 3:57 pm

Yes, I sat in one of those rear bulkhead seats:

They basically had ZERO recline.

Delta’s Brand Reaps the Benefits of the A220s Customer-Friendly Experience | Cranky Flier February 11, 2019 - 4:53 am

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