Massive overhead bins, 3-2 seating configuration, fast Wi-Fi, best-in-class IFE and consistently pleasant service.
No live TV, hard armrests, not all economy rows are created equal. And, routes are still scarce.
Last week, Delta became the first North American airline to begin passenger service on the Airbus A220. According to the airline, it’s the most fuel-efficient and quietest aircraft in the fleet. It also features the airline’s widest main-cabin seating . At 18.6 inches wide, Comfort+ and economy seats on this aircraft are over 8% wider than the 17.2 inch seats found on Delta’s 737-900ER and 757-200, and nearly 10% wider than the seats found on the CRJ900.
You can read about overall feelings on the A220 aircraft and flight experience in my first-class review, while this review focus on Comfort+.
Delta claims that the A220 offers wide-body amenities in a narrow-body jet, and after flying it for an entire day, I have to agree. The inaugural A220 flights shuttled passengers between New York LaGuardia (LGA), Boston (BOS) and Dallas–Fort Worth (DFW). It was originally scheduled to happen on Jan. 31, but the government shutdown delayed Delta’s approvals. Thus, Feb. 7 became the new inaugural day.
Delta’s future A220 fleet will consist of 40 A220-100 series aircraft, and the remaining 50 will be the larger A220-300 variant. Delta anticipates taking its first delivery of the A220-300 in 2020, and more A220-100s will enter service in the months to come. A full list of confirmed routes is here, and you’ll notice that most are medium-haul routes, around 900 miles or so, frequented by business travelers. These happen to be routes commonly served now by CRJ700, CRJ900 and Embraer 175 regional jets. Passengers used to sitting on one of today’s RJs are in for a major treat with the new jet.
I booked the longer of the two round-trips available on the aircraft’s first day of flying. The brief hop between LaGuardia and Boston felt too short to review, so I purchased a mixed-class ticket between LGA and American Airlines’ home base in Dallas–Fort Worth.
It was much less expensive to fly LGA-DFW in coach and DFW-LGA in first, so that’s the route I went. Thanks to my Diamond Medallion status, I was automatically upgraded from the main cabin to Comfort+. I put the total cost of $403.80 on my Chase Sapphire Reserve, which earned me 3x Ultimate Rewards points, for a total of 1,209 UR points, worth about $24, according to TPG’s current valuations.
If I’d wanted to book this itinerary with SkyMiles, it would’ve cost around 50,000 to 60,000. According to TPG’s current valuations, that was worth $600 or more, so cash it was. Since this was a paid ticket, I earned Medallion Qualifying Dollars and Medallion Qualifying Miles toward Delta elite status — I walked away with 355 MQDs (only the base fare counts toward MQDs) and 3,470 MQMs. In addition, I earned 3,095 redeemable miles as a Diamond Medallion member, which are worth approximately $47.
Since I’d booked these flights with a very quick one-hour turn in Dallas, the only real experience I got on the ground happened in New York, before the economy flight. Festivities for the ribbon-cutting ceremony began around 5:15am.
Passengers from the first A220 flight out of LGA — a 6am departure to Boston — mingled with those who arrived early for their 7:45am departure to Dallas–Fort Worth on Delta’s newest A220, registration N104DU, which was delivered on Dec. 31, 2018.
I didn’t have a bag to check, but if I’d had one, there was an abundance of check-in desks at LGA. Usually, NYC airports are very busy places, but there wasn’t a whole lot going on when I arrived at 4:55am. I zipped through the CLEAR+TSA PreCheck lane in under three minutes and made a beeline to Gate C38.
Once the LGA-BOS flight departed, I made my way to the Terminal C Sky Club to grab a coffee. I used one of my Delta Choice Benefits to gain Sky Club access, but you could also enter with the Platinum Card® from American Express or the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express.
Cabin and Seat
This particular A220, was basically just out of the wrapper, delivered roughly six weeks before its first commercial trip. Delta has just a handful of A220-100s in operation at launch but plans to operate 40 once all deliveries are in. These will replace the CRJ700s and CRJ900s.
Considering how brand-new this plane was, everything aboard was fresh as a daisy.
Delta’s A220-100 configuration has 12 first-class seats (three rows in a 2-2 layout), 15 Comfort+ seats (three rows in a 3-2 layout) and 82 standard economy seats in rows of 3-2. Each seat in Comfort+ and the main cabin offers the most width in Delta’s entire fleet, at 18.6 inches.
My Comfort+ seat (11A) was incredibly spacious for the class of service. Both my neighbor and I used our 13-inch laptops for most of the flight, and we each had room for a drink on our tray table beside the laptop. We never even rubbed elbows.
Legroom was huge for a non-first-class cabin. The passenger in front of me, seated in 10A along the soft (i.e., not walled) bulkhead, reclined about 30 minutes into our flight. I wasn’t bothered at all.
With 34 inches of pitch, I had room to sit my backpack upright and still stretch my legs as far out as I wanted. Delta states that its main-cabin seats offer 30 to 32 inches of pitch. I noticed the row immediately behind Comfort+ was a bit closer to 30 inches than the rest of economy, though, so avoid row 14 if possible.
Each seat had access to a 110v power port and USB ports (fixed to the IFE display). Unlike in the first-class cabin, there was no padding on the armrests in main cabin and Comfort+.
Amenities and IFE
As I talked about in my first-class review, the A220 is home to Delta’s first “wireless IFE” system. It’s powered by Gogo Vision Touch, and the wireless part refers to this system’s ability to host all content — movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, games, etc. — on a central system and stream to each seatback tablet.
Delta installed 13.3-inch touchscreens in the first-class cabin (shown above) and 10.1-inch touchscreens (pictured in the next few photos below) in Comfort+ and the main cabin.
The new architecture enables Delta to upgrade these entertainment systems much more quickly. Now that we’re working with tablets based on code that doesn’t have to stay the same for eons, Delta can adapt to customer feedback and viewing trends without bearing the cost of ripping out and replacing hardware.
On my flight, the screen was very responsive to touch, and offered hundreds of free movies and TV shows, along with a new crop of podcasts.
I loved the flight tracker (Airshow by Collins Aerospace), though there was no live camera view.
The search function was particularly impressive. I did, however, miss the live TV from Dish that I’ve grown used to on other Delta planes. Unlike IFEs in first class, IFEs in Comfort+ and the main cabin were fixed and did not pivot up and down.
Food and Beverage
Meals for Purchase
Delta began its beverage and snack service around 40 minutes after takeoff from New York. Comfort+ passengers were entitled to free alcoholic beverages and were invited to grab snacks from a basket that included cookies, bananas, granola bars and peanuts. I opted for a Kind bar and banana, which did the trick after breakfast at LGA.
After the full beverage and snack service, flight attendants came down the aisle to offer coffee and tea. About 30 minutes later, there was another trip down the aisle with water.
During the nearly four-hour flight, flight attendants did not do another full service, but I had no issues requesting two more drinks. I also saw a number of my fellow passengers in the Comfort+ cabin request additional beverages, which were brought promptly and with a smile.
While I didn’t order one on this flight, I have enjoyed the Luvo wraps that are offered for $10.99 apiece on Delta’s Flight Fuel menu. For breakfast, there was a choice of a protein box ($8.99) or a turkey breakfast sandwich ($8.99).
Delta’s main-cabin service was attentive and cheerful, with free-flowing water and coffee.
The service on my flight was excellent. Flight attendants asked me what I wanted to drink and eat with a smile, and made themselves available throughout the flight for additional requests. I appreciated that flight attendants didn’t hunker down in the galley. Rather, they routinely made passes down the aisle to hand out coffee and water, collect rubbish and take additional requests. In fact, I didn’t have to ring my call button once, as flight attendants seemed to appear exactly when I needed a refill.
In a world where airlines have been making coach less tolerable, economy flyers will be thrilled to see Delta pushing in the opposite direction with the A220. 18.6 inches of seat width makes a noticeable difference in roominess. This is certainly the most spacious and comfortable Delta Comfort+ seat I’ve ever sat in.
When matched against the A220, the CRJ700, CRJ900 and Embraer 175 all come up short. That’s especially true in Comfort+ and main cabin, where the wider seats play an outsized role in improving the passenger experience. Even in coach, this plane is the new de facto king of regional flying, providing a roomy, modern environment with a best-in-class seatback entertainment system to serve medium-haul routes in the 900-to-1,400-mile range.
If you’re flying one of Delta’s upcoming confirmed A220 routes, do yourself a favor and make sure you pick the one operated by its newest jet. You’ll appreciate the added breathing room when shuttling over to your destination.
Featured imagine courtesy of Delta Air Lines. All other images courtesy of the author.