We flew in first class on the Delta Airbus jet that Boeing tried to keep out of the US. Here’s what it was like.

Delta's new Airbus A220 airliner at Boston Logan International Airport.

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Delta’s new Airbus A220 airliner at Boston Logan International Airport.
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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

  • Last Thursday, Delta Air Lines debuted it’s all-new Airbus A220 jetliner on flights from New York to Boston and Dallas.
  • The A220 began life as the Bombardier C Series but was rebranded after Airbus took over the program.
  • We flew in the plane’s economy cabin during the launch flight. Now, we are going back to experience the Delta Airbus A220’s first class cabin.

Last Thursday, Delta Air Lines debuted it’s all-new Airbus A220 jetliner on flights from New York to Boston and Dallas.

It was the long-awaited US debuted for the Canadian airliner. The airline originally planned to introduce its A220 fleet at the end of January but was forced to delay the inaugural flight due to the lack of working federal regulators during the government shutdown.

The A220 is a next-generation 100 to 150-seat carbon-composite airliner. The plane entered service with SWISS and Air Baltic in 2016. Delta is the first in the Americas to operate the plane on commercial flights. Unlike the larger Boeing 737MAX and Airbus A320neo families, the A220 is a clean sheet design which means it’s not based on an existing airframe.

Read more: We flew on the new Delta Airbus jet, which Boeing tried to keep out of the US, to see if it lives up to the hype. Here’s the verdict.

The A220 started life back in 2004 when Canada’s Bombardier, the maker of private jets and small regional aircraft, decided it was time to make the jump into the big leagues.

By the early 2010s, Bombardier’s new jet ran into developmental delays and the resulting financial trouble forced the company to take a $1 billion bailout from the Quebec government in 2015.

In 2016, Bombardier booked an order for 75 C Series jets from Delta Air Lines. One year later, Boeing filed a complaint with US Commerce Department and the US International Trade Commission alleging that the Delta C Series order was made possible only by abnormally low prices supported by Canadian government subsidies.

In total, Bombardier and Delta faced a 299.45% tariff on any Canadian-built C Series plane exported to the US. Facing the possibility of losing the most important order in the C Series program’s history, Bombardier turned to Boeing’s greatest foe, Airbus.

Less than a month after the tariff was announced, Bombardier handed 50.01% of its prized airliner program to Airbus with zero up-front cash investment coming from the European aviation giant.

In the summer of 2018, the Bombardier C Series was officially rebranded as the Airbus A220. This January, Delta ordered 15 additional A220s, bringing the airline’s tally to 90 aircraft.

Business Insider had the chance to experience the economy cabin on board the A220 during its first flight with Delta. Now, we are experiencing the plane again, this time in first class.

Here’s a closer look.


Last Thursday, Delta launched its A220 service with a 6:00 am flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

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We had the chance to try out the plane’s economy cabin, which impressed us with its roomy seats.

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Read the economy review here.


After a couple of hours in Boston, it was time to return to New York.

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Here’s the A220 returning from New York to pick us up.

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The plane chosen to operate the flight is N102DU, it was the second A220 delivered to Delta. The airline actually used the same plane and crew on both of my flights.

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Delta’s ground crew is checking out the new plane as well.

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Time to get on the plane.

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At the boarding door, there are a few not-so-subtle reminders of the A220’s Bombardier past.

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We are greeted by a C Series welcome mat and…

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… The plane’s Bombardier data plate.

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Let’s step inside.

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Delta’s A220-100s are equipped with 109 seats in first class, comfort plus, and main cabin or economy. First class is set up with four seats per row while the rest of the plane bosts five seats per row in a 3-2 configuration.

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The A220’s first class cabin features 21-inch wide seats with 37 inches of pitch or the distance between two rows. Seat width and legroom are on par with the domestic first-class offerings found on Delta’s larger Airbus A321 and Boeing 737-900ER aircraft.

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Comfort plus seats are 18.6 inches wide with 34 inches of pitch.

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Delta’s standard economy post has 18.6 inch-wide seats with 32 inches of pitch. The A220’s economy and comfort plus seats are nearly two inches wider those found on many of the McDonnell Douglas MD88s it will replace on certain routes.

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For this flight, I was in first class. Seat 1A to be exact.

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It’s one of 12 first class seats on board.

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Waiting for me at my seat was a bottle of water, a pillow, and a blanket.

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I found the space to be more than sufficient for a domestic flight. The seats proved to be comfortable enough, although I would have liked a little more cushion.

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Shortly after boarding, we pushed back from the gate. The pilots fired up the A220’s pair of Pratt & Whitney PW1500G geared turbofan engines and we were on our way.

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As the pilots throttled up for takeoff, our plane came to life. The Airbus shot down the runway with ease.

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After a short takeoff roll, we were off the ground. Through it all, the geared turbofan engines remained remarkably quiet.

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The A220 soon climbed past the gloomy clouds and into the blue sky.

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Each seat on board the A220 is equipped with a personal in-flight entertainment screen. Since I was seated in the first row, the inflight-entertainment screens are mounted to the bulkhead.

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Each screen is equipped with an audio jack and a USB plus.

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There is also a power plug located on the inside of my armrest.

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The screens are equipped with Delta’s new wireless in-flight entertainment system.

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The system offers a good variety of movies …

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… TV shows …

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… live satellite TV …

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… music …

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… a kids section with…

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… adjustable background colors …

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… a food and beverage menu …

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… a readout of different time zones …

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… a menu of various airport maps …

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… and a flight map. The user interface was easy to use, and the screen quality was good.

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Short hops between cities like Boston and New York tend to be bump affairs. Fortunately, we stayed above the weather and cruised smoothly.

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These clouds remind me of a sea of fluffy cotton balls or marshmallows.

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My seat was equipped with an armrest-mounted collapsible tray table. You can unfurl it for meals or…

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… fold it in half for drinks. Speaking of drinks, Delta’s courteous cabin crew offered continuous drinks service before and during the flights. I went with a Coke, but there are alcoholic beverages available as well.

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Due to the short duration of the flight, a full meal service was not available. But I did receive a yummy bag of snack mix.

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After the snack service, I decided to stretch my legs at the front of the first class cabin. To my right was the galley…

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… to my left were the crew seats and…

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… the boarding door.

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At the front of the passenger cabin near the cockpit is the first class lavatory.

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It’s pretty much the same size as the economy class lavs.

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As our flight drew to a close, I returned to my seat. We descended beneath the clouds and back into the gray.

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Our flight made a smooth landing at LaGuardia.

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At the gate, I look back at the Delta Airbus A220.

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Even though our flight was very short, it was long enough for me to get a taste of the A220’s first class product. Let’s just say I’m impressed. The aircraft delivered a smooth and whisper quiet ride while the in-flight entertainment and onboard amenities proved to be top notch.

The A220’s economy class experience is markedly better than other Airbus, Boeing, and McDonnell Douglas narrow-body jets. However, the Delta in experience for first class, while present, is less evident.

With that said, the Delta Airbus A220 experience, on the whole, is an absolute triumph.

With a range of nearly 3,400 miles, the Airbus A220 can be deployed on trans-continental domestic flights between cities such as Boston and Seattle. These are flights normally operated by larger narrow-bodies like the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737. If I had the choice, I’d take the A220 all-day, every day.