Delta Air Lines‘ new Airbus A220 jets are finally ready take-off, the carriers latest offensive in airlines’ battle for business travelers as it becomes the first U.S. operator to offer the big-windowed, fuel-efficient planes.
Outfitted with new Pratt and Whitney geared turbofan engines, the jets have higher fuel efficiency compared with other models, a key selling point for carriers whose second-largest expense after labor is fuel. The planes also feature passenger perks like spacious overhead bins, big windows — even on in the bathroom — as well as wider seats. In the A220s coach cabin, the seats are 18.6 inches wide, a tenth of an inch wider than on Delta’s second-widest seats, which are on its Boeing 777s.
It’s been a winding and long road to market for the A220-100.
Delta ordered 75 of the planes from Canadian manufacturer Bombardier in April 2016. The jets were mired in a trade dispute with Boeing shortly afterward, as the Chicago-based maker of planes like the eponymous 737, alleged Bombardier sold the planes below-cost to Delta and illegally received government subsidies for the program. Boeing lost that trade case in January 2018.
Had it won, the planes could have been subjected to a 300 percent tariff if they were imported from Canada. Boeing’s chief competitor Airbus took a majority stake in the Bombardier program last summer and renamed the plane, originally known as the C Series, the A220.
Delta intended to debut the A220 on Jan. 31 but said the partial government shutdown, which left Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors furloughed, delayed its final approvals from the government.
One of the plane’s main selling points is its range: nearly 3,400 miles.
“Compared to everything else in its size class it’s unprecedented,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aircraft analyst and vice president at the Teal Group.
In addition to Boston and Dallas, Delta is planning to serve Houston, Minneapolis, Detroit and Salt Lake City on the A220 Delta last month increased its order for the planes and added some of the larger model, the A220-300, for a total of 90 A220 jets.
The planes have 109 seats, with 12 in first class, 15 in Delta’s extra-legroom seats, Comfort+, and 82 in standard economy, with a 3-2 configuration.
The once slow-selling plane this year won orders from JetBlue Airways as well as JetBlue’s founder and former CEO David Neeleman, who is in the process of starting a new airline. Spirit Airlines is considering adding the jets to its fleet. Delta partner Korean Air already flies the Airbus A220-300, and it is also flown by Swiss and Air Baltic.