Delta’s First A220-100 Takes Flight

The very first Delta A220 has stepped out of the paint shop and taken to the skies, as a full flight test took place.

Delta’s A220-100 has taken flight for the first time. Photo: © Airbus SAS 2017 – All rights reserved.

Crewed by test pilots only, the flight lasted two hours and 53 minutes from Mirabel Airport  in Quebec at 2:02pm local time this Saturday.

Although the test flight was a success, Delta are not expected to start using the A220 until early 2019.

What can we expect from the Delta A220?

Delta Airlines are apparently investing in the A220 as a replacement to their aging McDonnell Douglas MD88 and MD95 aircraft, as well as their Airbus A319s.

The new jets are significantly smaller than the aircraft they will replace, each seating around 110 passengers. However, the high efficiency of these planes means they will be able to fly right across the North American continent nonstop.

Currently hosting the dubious accolade of the US carrier with the oldest fleet, Delta Airlines A220-100s will complement their investment in A350s as their first two next generation aircraft.

Although an inside view of the Delta craft is not yet available (because it won’t have been installed yet), Airbus have released promotional images of what the cabin could look like. Arranged in a 2-3 configuration, these will be some of the widest economy seats out there.

The interior of the Delta A220
The A220-100 features a 2-3 arrangement of seating, which allows for wider seats

Extra large windows, of the sort now seen on the Dreamliner, make the cabin lighter and more spacious feeling than a typical aircraft. The A220 family have been designed to have low noise levels, making for a peaceful cabin experience.

Continuing the theme of the Dreamliner’s luxury touches, passengers can expect mood lighting, ample overhead storage and a well-managed cabin environment. In a statement released by the carrier, Delta said:

Delta will be the first U.S. airline to take delivery of the A220, which will feature a modern interior with a spacious, widebody feel, and best-in-class fuel performance

Depending on the arrangement chosen by Delta Airlines, they could fit a few business class seats up front and limit the total passengers to 99. Alternatively, a standard configuration goes to 110 economy seats, or at the very highest density it’s up at 125 seats.

Where will the Delta Airlines A220-100 fly?

With a short take-off field of just 1,120m, the A220 is capable of taking off and landing at some of the tightest airports in the world. In fact, they are the largest specification of aircraft capable of landing at London City Airport.

However, initial reports suggest there won’t be any new routes offered by the Delta A220, at least not right away. Speaking at the Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit earlier this year, Senior Vice-President of Delta, Joe Esposito, said the new jets would be deployed on existing routes currently served by large regional jets.

“Where we’re purposely putting [the A220s] is to improve our product on our longest haul [Embraer] 175 or [Bombardier] CRJ900s, into thinner business markets”, he said.

Delta A220
For the time being, the A220 will serve existing routes

This would likely mean that the first A220s will replace the 76-seat Embraer 175 on routes out of New York, such as to Houston International or Dallas/Fort Worth. Both routes pit Delta against American Airlines and United Airlines for their share of the tickets.

The carrier has indicated that, in time, they could look to develop new focus cities using the A220-100s as primary carriers. However, this will have to wait until they take a higher number of deliveries.

The aircraft formerly known as the Bombardier C Series

The A220 isn’t as new as you might think. It’s actually a remastered Bombardier C Series, produced by a partnership involving Bombardier, Airbus and the Government of Quebec.

To date, there have been a total of 402 orders for the aircraft, with 42 delivered by the end of August 2018. 123 of these were for the initial A220-100, and 279 for the later mode of the A220-300.

A220 orders
The order books for the A220s look fairly healthy, but Delta are by far the largest client for the A220-100

Delta themselves have ordered 75 A220-100s for their fleet. Other big customers include Air Canada, who are waiting on 45 A220-300s and Lufthansa Group who are the launch customer for the A220-300. Also worthy of note are airBaltic, who are the launch operator for the CS300 variant. JetBlue and another undisclosed US airline made commitments to order 120 of the A220-300s earlier this year.

Delta Airlines are by far the largest client for the A220-100, with only a handful of other carriers placing orders for this aircraft. Braathens Aviation, Gulf Air, Lufthansa Group and Odyssey Airlines are all in line for 10 aircraft each, with a further handful going to PrivatAir and Lease Corporation International.