Air Canada Debuts Airbus A220

Filed Under: Air Canada, Aviation

Air Canada introduced its newest plane Wednesday at its Montreal headquarters, and I (Kate!) was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the event. The timing was perfect as I had already planned on being in Eastern Canada visiting family, and since I’d used points for the trip, was able to add the Montreal trip as a stopover to my Aeroplan award.

The A220-300, which will make its inaugural revenue flight from Montreal to Calgary today (January 16), represents the second phase of Air Canada’s decade-long fleet renewal project, which will see the narrow-body fleet updated.

The A220’s 3,200 nautical mile range covers all of North America from Air Canada’s major hubs, and the airline has ordered 45 birds, with options to acquire 30 more, so expect to see this aircraft filtering in through the entire North American system over time.

To start, however, the first two dedicated routes will be:

  • Daily, year-round flights, between Montreal and Seattle, as of May 4, 2020; this complements existing flights to Seattle from Vancouver and Toronto
  • Daily, year-round flights, between Toronto and San Jose, as of May 4, 2020; this complements existing flights to San Jose from Vancouver

The history of the plane is interesting as well, originally designed in Canada by Bombardier as part of its C-series line of aircraft, it has been picked up by Airbus and is being manufactured locally at the former Bombardier facility operated by Airbus in Mirabel Quebec.

What to expect from Air Canada’s A220

Air Canada’s A220-300 will be in a two class configuration with a total of 137 seats (Delta has a similar configuration on their A220s):

  • Business class will consist of 12 seats, in a 2-2 configuration
  • Economy class will consist of 125 seats, in a 2-3 configuration

That means there are very few middle seats, which is good news for almost anybody. The economy seats are also, at 19 inches, the widest in Air Canada’s fleet. The aisle follows suit at a roomy 20 inches. Overhead bins are 15% larger than those in the A320.

The A220 boasts 20% more efficient fuel burn than older aircraft on a per-seat basis, which results in lower emissions. The engines also have a 50% smaller noise footprint.

First impressions

The aircraft definitely feels light and spacious, thanks to more vertical sidewalls, high ceilings, and large windows than your average narrow-body aircraft.

The business class seats are comfortable and roomy, and as a short person I was particularly pleased by the ability to elevate the bottom portion of the seat a little, similar to the footrest on a lie-flat, though to a lesser degree and with less automated control.

This provides a feeling of recline without requiring significant seat pitch, giving you another option to shift position on a longer mid-haul flight.

There is also a drop-down footrest from the seat ahead, but I was less taken with that, as the bits where you actually put your feet rotate, which feels a bit unstable.

I have some concerns about the business class tray tables, which are stored in the armrest and released by lifting a small lever. Even in my short time on the plane with a group of plane-people, a few had difficulty finding the mechanism and then getting the tray table stowed again.

I anticipate those will see a certain amount of abuse from frustrated or clueless passengers and hope they are up for the challenge. The first business class seat that I plopped into had a stuck drink tray, so I’m also interested to see how those will hold up over time.

The economy seats also felt pretty spacious, although as a relatively small human that’s tougher for me to assess.

Every seat has USB, USB C, and AC power plug-ins, and a 12-inch screen for in-flight entertainment. The system apparently also offers dynamic closed captioning for Deaf and hearing-impaired passengers and accessibility features for passengers with visual impairment.

I anticipate that I’ll be spending a lot of time of the A220 in years to come, as I regularly fly from Calgary to eastern Canada, and based on this first look, at least, I’m a fan.

Comments
  1. I’ve never understood those style foot rests. Not once were they even marginally more comfortable and better positioned for me that literally anything else in the plane: The seat brackets, the floor, or the bar under my own seat.

  2. Thanks for the review, Kate.

    I’ll be on that bird next week. Had a planned trip YEG-YYZ, but when I saw the A220 would be flying, I booked a small detour, YEG-YYC-YUL-YYZ. And I scored a confirmed upgrade! Looking forward to trying it out.

  3. I agree this is a great plane and a game changer in the sector. Let’s hope they build the A220-500.

    As for Air Canada’s fleet renewal plans, they seem to have stalled! Hopefully they are talking nicely to Airbus about some A20Ns and A21Ns alongside the A220 rather than the death trap they currently have grounded.

  4. Ben, do you have any intel on the grounded Air Canada 737 Max? Other airlines already announced they will not be flying them until at least June 2020

  5. That was yesterday’s news. Today, Bombardier Inc shares fell 37% after the company warned its 2019 profits would be lower because of problematic rail contracts and said it might have to write down the value of a plane partnership with Airbus

    Bombardier also said it is “reassessing” its minority stake in the A220 jet program, which will require additional cash to ramp up production.

  6. Thanks for the review. For legroom, I’ll wait for Alex Praglowski’s youtube review. The dude is 6’8″, so if he fits than I’ll have no problem.

  7. If these are anything like Egypt Air’s where Sam Chui reviewed them at the Dubai show, he was practically squeezed into that space. Really tight seating.

  8. The seats in the A220 are good news for economy travelers because almost no middle seats are almost all seats are either a window or a passageway and couples traveling together enjoy some privacy.
    Business travelers, on the other hand, are bad news because the seats are much narrower.
    The plane is narrower than the classic single-aisle b737 and A320 planes and still has the same configuration in a 2-2 line business class

  9. I flew the A220 on Thursday YYC-YUL in J class, and I can report that it is a very nice plane.

    Pros:
    It’s quiet.
    Loads of room in storage bins.
    Very high ceiling, giving a feeling of spaciousness.
    The J seat is comfortable and generally well conceived. Leg rest improves comfort when reclined.
    No complaints on leg room or space.
    Tray table was fine, but it was useful to have the heads up on the small lever.
    Nice big windows.
    Humongous IFE screen, very clear. And a little button to skip the ads before the movie!

    Quibbles:
    The power port is a bit oddly placed, but I suppose you have to put it somewhere.
    The slide out drink tray is big enough for 1 drink, but it’s supposed to serve 2 seats.

    Soft product was lovely.

    An SD came around to survey pax and I checked with her on how it felt for crew in the galley, and she said it was comfortable to work in. (I have heard complaint about tight quarters in the 737 MAX galleys.)

    My return trip was on an E190 and an A320, so a chance to compare head to head. The A320 J seats are are little bigger, with more space between seats and a drink tray that can handle 2 drinks. But to be fair, there’s more space available. I like the E190 seat on the left side of the 1-2 configuration, though it does have its drawbacks, such as small overhead bin.

    Overall, I would say the A220 will be an excellent replacement for the E190s and could also replace A319s with no loss of capacity. I would fly it instead of an A320, and definitely prefer it over a 737 MAX, which I would go out of my way to avoid.

    Looking forward to flying these planes for years to come.

  10. Business class seats?

    Aren’t the first few rows really PE seats? According to seat guru: 37″ pitch and 21″ width, so bit wider than the normal PE seat I suppose. 6″ of recline.

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