Flying Delta A220 First Class: My Experience

Filed Under: Delta, Travel

Delta recently became the first US airline to take delivery of the Airbus A220 (the next North American airline to receive the aircraft will be Air Canada, in early 2020). This plane was formerly known as the Bombardier CSeries, but ended up being rebranded as the A220 thanks to a joint venture between Bombardier and Airbus.

The A220 represents an interesting direction for Delta, as these planes will largely be used to replace their MD-80 aircraft, which are quite old. Historically Delta is an airline that keeps planes for a really long time but maintains them well, while here Delta is actually buying new planes.

Walking onto a Delta plane with a new plane smell is sorta surreal!

Anyway, in this post I wanted to share my thoughts about my two hour flight on Delta’s A220 first class from Dallas to Detroit.

The A220 cabin is beautiful

The A220 is known for being a comfortable little plane, and Delta did a fantastic job with their cabin finishes.

There are 12 first class seats, so the ratio of first class to economy seats is pretty good.

Economy is in a 2-3 configuration, so it’s great that there’s only one middle seat per row.

There are personal televisions, power ports, and high speed Wi-Fi at every seat.

I find it hilarious that American thinks people don’t enjoy watching TV on planes, but rather are happy bringing their own entertainment. How many people in the below picture do you see not enjoying the seat back entertainment?

The overhead bins on this plane are definitely bigger than on the MD-80, though still not as big as on most mainline planes.

The bathrooms are spacious

Nowadays I feel like airlines are competing with one another to see how tight they can make bathrooms on planes. In that sense the A220 is a breath of fresh air, as the bathrooms are among the biggest I’ve seen on a narrow body plane.

One of the bathrooms in the back even has a window.

The first class cabin is on the tight side

This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but the cabin isn’t quite as wide as your typical A320 or 737. As a result, first class seats are on the tight side compared to flying a 737 or A320.

For example, the armrest between first class seats is quite narrow.

This isn’t a big deal at all, but it’s definitely less comfortable than your typical 737 or A320 first class. That’s fair enough, and not a big deal, but is something worth being aware of.

CSeries vs. A220

It’s interesting to me that even though the plane was rebranded as the A220 last year, the inflight entertainment and inflight announcements still refer to the CSeries. Did Delta not get the memo?

The Delta crew had no clue what they were doing

It was the crew’s first time flying the A220, and they were hilariously unfamiliar with the plane. They couldn’t get the PA to work at first. Then they couldn’t get the safety video to work, so they did a manual safety demonstration.

And they were just generally so hilarious about it. The manual safety demonstration started with “believe it or not, there’s over 60 years of seniority in this cabin.”

“This plane is equipped with eight emergency exits. We have two exits at the front, four… wait, no, two window exits, and two exits in the back. That brings our exits down to six.”

How many pilots does it take to close a door?

At departure time the gate agent tried to close the door, and it didn’t latch. Uh oh. She tried again. And again. And again. The same problem persisted.

Then there was a pilot in the jumpseat who tried to help with closing the door from the inside. He couldn’t get it to shut either. Then the captain of the flight tried to shut it. He probably tried it a dozen times before the door finally closed, and in the process some mechanism in the door definitely came loose.

We made it to Detroit safely, so I guess it wasn’t a safety issue at least!

Delta crews (and other small touches) make a big difference 

It’s not like the difference between flying American and Delta is that huge, though there are a lot of small touches that add up.

For example, Delta has a bottle of water at your seat upon boarding, and also has a pillow and blanket, while American only offers a blanket.

Similarly, their crews just really care, and it shows. They actually seem like they enjoy being there, and that makes a big difference.

Bottom line

It’s great to see Delta adding A220s to their fleet. These are an improvement over their MD-80 planes. It’s also great to see that these planes feature big bathrooms, personal televisions at every seat, and a reasonably sized first class cabin.

In economy some may even prefer this plane to other mainline planes, given the 2-3 layout, while in first class the seats are noticeably tighter.

The icing on the cake was that it was the crew’s first flight on the plane, and the good humor with which they approached the flight.

If you’ve flown the Delta A220, what was your experience like?

  1. Great review. I’m debating flying the new bird from NYC (can’t remember if it’s JFK or LGA) back to ATL next month. Right now it’s pricing a bit higher than flight options on A320/321’s or MD80’s but it has a snazzy “New Aircraft” banner on the search results.

  2. Nice to see a new air frame being added to a fleet that isn’t crammed as tight as possible. And with power ports and screens for everyone? Wow! Those first class seats don’t look terribly impressive though.

  3. so they didn’t train or do any familiarization flights for the crew?? That doesn’t sound safe

  4. wow, what kind of training they went through before flight? I would be really scared if I witness this.

  5. I’m sorry, but I have flown the A220 now 4 times in the past 2 weeks between IAH-LGA and I think the plane is over-hyped.

    The Entertainment system (when working – it was broken on 1 of my flights) and overhead storage is a plus and the seat cushions are better, but I would rather have the E175 back on this route. First Class is tight. The bulkhead is even tighter. Coach is an improvement for sure, but overall, I’m just not overly impressed.

  6. I’ve flown this plane from BOS-LGA and LGA-DFW. The BOS flight I was on was the aircraft’s fourth revenue flight (so presumably it’s first day in service) and there was a Bombardier rep on the flight helping the crew with the cabin lighting and PA controls…so it wasn’t just limited to your flight!

    FWIW, I think Swiss still brands the plane as CS vs A, so it’s not just DL!

  7. Aren’t you glad AA lied to you so you can fly this plane instead? hehe jk 😉
    Thx for this review — I’m planning to fly this next month from LGA-DFW. Looking forward to it!

  8. I flew it a week ago from LaGuardia to Dallas. The crew also hadn’t flown the plane before. It was so hilarious. I also loved how one woman came out of the back bathroom and screamed “holy s***, that bathrooms got a window. Good luck to y’all who trying to come here. I’m staying here the entire f*** flight”

  9. @JJ . I agree. One of my favorite jets is the E-175 on AA. A lot of space in First/Biz especially on the single aisle. (Only problem with AA is no meal service on a +2 hour flight with E-175.)
    That Delta photo second to last showing the man’s knees inches from the bulkhead and L door = way too tight.

  10. “How many people in the below picture do you see not enjoying the seat back entertainment?”

    Ive said this about Jetblue for years. All AA’s “customer research” is clear bs when on any flight with TVs you see a vast majority making use of them.

    The only issue with the TVs is on some planes it is not clear how to turn them off (you have to turn the brightness all the way down to get to the off setting). So at 3am you see some screens blasting like the sun with the home page because the person cant figure out how to shut it off.

    Do the Delta ones have a clear off button?

  11. If the captain does not know how to close the door, does he know where to find the control yoke in the cockpit? Oops, the A220 does not have a yoke, so I guess he will have to improvise on the spot …

    Also, @Ben @Jack are you sure you want to have a breath of fresh air right in the toilet?

  12. Does anyone seriously think that the IFE is here to stay? Delta will realize that it can save so many million dollars a year not having them. Then of course they will reduce pitch and recline.

  13. Im surprised they went 2-2 in F. Would think 1-2 would be much more comfortable on that small of a plane, but I guess it is a weird cabin width and there is no happy medium for revenue vs comfort. Would love to see B6 put a mini-mint cabin on their -300’s but they seem to be set on going all core.

  14. The comment about people using the IFE screens is somewhat naive – if you give customers the OPTION of IFE screens on board, many will indeed use the IFE because it is simply available to them. But if IFE weren’t available, people aren’t complaining. As long as the user interface to access the app / browser needed to view IFE on your personal device is smooth, there is NO reason why airlines should continue to offer IFE screens on shorter flights. It makes complete sense on long haul flights where you have to charge your personal device to watch anything for 5+ hours, but on 2-3 hour flights most people are perfectly happy using their own devices, if and when they need their IFE. The weight reduction is large enough that it makes complete sense to not have IFE screens

  15. FC on the DL MD-88s are the tightest in the fleet and they don’t have screens. So this is probably just a minor upgrade up front.

    Where are the power ports? It seems like manufacturers like to make them where you can’t reach them easily with seat belt on or can’t fully see them? Why do they do this?

    In the back, it probably makes a major difference.

    As someone earlier mentioned, when comparing the new AA 175s very good. But they have no power ports. I fly them regularly on 3-hour flights and that’s just moronic.

  16. @JJJ Since the IFE’s are on by default , I wonder how much this picture proves. I’ve seen lots of people just leave the screen on and not bother turning it off while using their personal devices for entertainment.

  17. @Garrett nice name! Delta knows exactly how much it costs them to have IFE. I think this is the one where the content streamed to each unit, so there aren’t any boxes under the seats any longer. But year, they know how much they’re “losing” by installing IFE.

  18. REALLY annoyed – was booked on to this into DTW last week and they did a last minute swap to a REALLY old 717.

    It was really boring and they had no entertainment and they made me gate check my roll on even though I was in first and I know it fits in the bins.

    Didn’t know they had swapped it until it was too late. So had the entertainment-less AA experience on DL.

  19. I wonder if they’ll call it the CS100 forever, the same way AA still lists the ‘S80’ even though the “DC-9 Super 80” was renamed “MD-80” in 1983

  20. Delta views IFE as a competitive advantage, and the improvement in their brand in recent years suggests they are right. JetBlue has known this for years. I thoroughly enjoyed watching live NCAA basketball on a relatively short Delta flight recently.

  21. “The overhead bins on this plane are definitely bigger on the MD-80”

    Just to clarify, you mean these are bigger than the MD-80, right?

    Also, On the MD-80 the bins were bigger on the “3” side than the “2” side. Is there also a difference on this new 3/2 configuration?


  22. I prefer 1-2 hour flights without IFE. The constant interruptions, at least on AA, are never ending. The safety demonstrations, FA and Pilot announcements, credit card pitch, and most hilariously the IFE spotlight reel (interrupting my movie to let me know I can watch movies) ruin the experience.

    Pro tip on AA: long press the power button on the IFE to initiate the restart sequence which provides some peace when you can’t turn it off during safety demos, etc.

  23. I flew transcon on an AA 772 MIA-LAX yesterday. EVERYONE was using the IFE. The fact that Parker thinks he can still us the “everyone wants to bring their own” line is insane.

    And with regards to the crew, some of the most miserable FAs I’ve ever encountered. No smile, a complete “your inconveniencing me” look every time they came through the cabin. Which by the way, was only 4 times all flight. I’ve had Delta do follow-up water/requested beverage services 2-3 times after the main one on flights as short as MIA-JFK, while AA never came by to offer anything after the initial service 30 mins after takeoff/5 hours before landing.

  24. “The overhead bins on this plane are definitely bigger on the MD-80, though still not as big as on most mainline planes.” – I’m sorry but I didn’t understand this sentence. Did you mean to they’ve definitely bigger THAN the MD-80 or not as big?

    Otherwise a very helpful article. Thanks,

  25. 2. I counted 2 people that did not enjoy their seatback IFE. That’s why I am done with american, and have switched to delta. Deltas First class was cheaper than Americans basic economy to Jackson hole. That’s ridiculous!

  26. While First Class may be tight, Economy seats are wider than every other plane and so I am really looking forward to flying the A220.

  27. Wow. I know this is US domestic first but those seats……… not great, I’m glad we get a decent hard product domestic on VA

  28. Flown the route twice on the A220 in the past month, once in economy and once upgraded to first.

    Agree that the seats are wider in economy than on comparable short haul, the cabin is beautiful, love the IFE, restroom and overall service from Delta flight attendants are better than American.

    Terrible experience during my first class flight with the lack of service provided. My FA actually sat and ate 3 meals in plain sight on the jump seat talking to a fellow flight attendant for over an hour. I took pics because I couldn’t believe the lack of care. Spoke to a manager upon arriving at LGA and was told to send the pic and a letter to customer service for a refund of the upgrade fee.

    Customer Relations took 14 days to respond saying they could not provide a refund, but offered a $70 voucher. Disappointing, but as a DFW resident, one bad experience on delta is still better than the surly service I often get on American.

  29. I am the Steve Jobs of the airline industry. I don’t conduct focus groups or ask people’s what they want. I tell them and then they love it.

  30. My husband and I just flew from Atlanta to San Antonio and back on the A220 last week. We enjoyed the benefit of the new back seat entertainment screen! It made the trip seem much shorter. In my opinion, some people will complain about anything. You cannot please everyone! Great job Delta!!

  31. I flew on this plane 4/16/19 from Detroit to Dallas, and I was also impressed! Of course Delta buying into this type of aircraft doesn’t surprise me in the least. I fly quite a bit, and I fly Delta most of the time. I enjoyed the seating and the TV screens. Like your experience, the crew did a traditional presentation in regards to exit seats, flotation devices, etc! I sat in the main cabin and had plenty of leg room. The over head bins were huge, and the head room was nice when exiting the plane. My only complaint would be that the controls for the air, light, and, flagging the flight attendant were out of reach for the passenger in the isle seats that had 3 seats, (C seats) but I can live that.

  32. Given that most of the airlines, that might use the new, er, Airbus, around here for short (air passenger duty dodging) hops over the sea to Schipol or CDG, are either losing money or going bust, I ain’t holding my breath for a flight on one.

    But, based on one Londinium to Detroit round trip on a 767, I agree about Delta crew. I had drawn a group’s short straw and been handed an economy ticket and was seated just behind business in an aisle seat facing one of the jump seats. The male crew member who occupied said seat had a great personality and was happy to chat till the seat belt light went off and his work began. Thereafter we had cheery, efficient service all the way to Motown – with a much better attitude than the bizzo attendants on the return. And the Detroit immigration guys were nice, too.

    One trip and one crew member can make or make one’s impression of an airline – whenever you mention Delta I recall that entertaining trip across the pond; the crew were just great.

  33. Unfamiliar crews really can be hilarious. I once flew a brand new Lufthansa A 350 were the crew was still new to the galley layout. The unfolding game of Trolley-Tetris made me pause my movie for a while.

  34. IFE is overrated. To the seldom flyer, yes, it might be great… but when you fly frequently, you will quickly burn through all the new content. For me, that’s half of an international flight on Delta, which I do a few a month, plus a lot of domestics. In my experience, some of the airlines (perhaps within SkyTeam alliance) seem to source the content from the same vendor, and I’ve seen virtually the same movies on other SkyTeam member airlines, which means you will be bored no matter who you fly. There is really not much I wanted to watch or haven’t watched before.

    I think IFE screens should be removed from short to medium haul aircraft. to save weight and only kept on long-haul aircraft.

  35. Whoever said the seats in first are premium economy is right. I’ve flown in first 3 times on this aircraft. Row 1 is actually Worse than economy. I’d say it is just 16 inches between end of seat and full wall no place to even put your toes under a wall. I avoid this aircraft whenever possible.

  36. Thursday I flew DTW-DFW shortly after takeoff the captain announced we were the first revenue passengers on Delta’s first Airbus A220. The plane flew ATL-DTW day but not with revenue passengers probably Airbus, Delta and Medallion VIPs. The air seemed less dehydrating like on the Airbus A380. The seat width is good but the headrest seemed to far forward so sitting back wasn’t too comfy but may improve as seatback wears over time, the restroom seems more roomy and nicer, some with a window. I carry a small suitcase that doesn’t fit under seat on American aisle seats easily under the aisle seat. Bravo Delta and Airbus.

  37. I did Boston to SFO – paid seat, not an upgrade. I’m 6’6″ and had ~2″ between my knees and the seat in front of me. No leg crossing. Aisle seat still had to get up to let me out. I’m certain the exit row would have more room than First.

    I always book last row so I can recline guilt-free – but with others right behind me, nope.

    Definitely a premium economy feel to the whole thing.

  38. Just flew First class on a Delta A-220 , will never pay extra for first class skinny seats. Very tight and the seat in front of me came back into my face. Don’t waste you money.

  39. Not a fan of Delta, especially since they busted the FA union and retaliated against Northwest employees. Regardless, this plane is a mess. As for inflight video, WRONG! I much prefer to bring my own than have some screen blaring light at me. AA has this right. As for the service, no comparison. United and American are hands down better.

  40. @Chris – I’m not a huge fan of this plane in F, but there is no way that mainline United and American have better inflight service than Delta.

  41. Absolutely horrible first class. There is little difference between seat and arm rest between comfort and first. Much, much tighter. If you are a frequent flyer in first, this plane will drive you nuts.

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