Since the day it was introduced the A220 (nee CSeries) was described as a game-changer for the industry. JetBlue is about to find out just how well it works. The carrier formally introduced the aircraft into service this week with an inaugural flight from Boston to Tampa.
And while the first flight festivities remain slightly subdued compared to prior years, excitement around the new product is very real and very justified. It is a solid product and the new plane opens up many opportunities for JetBlue that the E190s it replaces cannot offer.
Note: PaxEx.Aero was a guest of JetBlue on the inaugural trip. The opinions here are very much my own.
The on-board experience did not vary much from what JetBlue offers on its newer A320 family configurations.
The planes feature embedded IFE screens at every seat and free Fly-Fi WiFi for everyone on board. Ditto for multiple power options at every seat.
Leg room is decent for everyone and the Even More Space seats are a bit more spacious.
The big windows are great and it is notably quieter on board than the older generation of planes it replaces.
Adjustable headrests are a nice upgrade from the E190s, as is the increased storage options on the seat back pocket.
All of which is to say it is a comfortable ride. It is hardly a revolutionary cabin layout, but that is mostly by design. JetBlue has had good success with its cabin layouts in general and the A220 follows that pattern. It is one that most travelers should enjoy.
That’s good news, as the company expects a total of 70 A220s to join the fleet in the next 5ish years. It will be a major component of the company’s future, arguably more significant than the A321LR also joining the fleet this year.
Future network considerations
A second A220 is due to the carrier imminently. Five more are planned by the end of the year. And, for now, the company is not saying much about where they will fly.
Published schedules mostly see the plane continuing its once daily trip to Tampa. On Saturday it heads to Orlando instead. As of 6 May it increases to a pair of daily Tampa flights, including the current evening rotation.
From 10 June the A220 shifts to serve Boston-Fort Lauderdale, with a schedule that requires two aircraft in service. Schedules later than that are spectacularly uncertain as the airline sorts out what the pandemic recovery looks like, but the A220 is not scheduled at all currently after Labor Day.
Looking bigger picture, the opportunities are far more impressive. Fuel burn per passenger drops significantly with the A220 compared to the Embraer E190 it replaces. Combine that with the boost in range and increased revenue potential from 40 additional seats and JetBlue’s optimism appears well-founded. A number of the routes recently announced could be well served by the A220. Milwaukee, Kansas City, and San Antonio all seem great destinations for the aircraft, for example.
The aircraft carries the necessary life raft gear for overwater operations. It ran a proving flight to San Juan in the weeks leading up to the inaugural. Expect to see it serve more and deeper into the Caribbean markets than the E190 did.
Similarly, lower demand transcon routes where the premium Mint service doesn’t sell could run well with the 140 seat config rather than the 162 seat A320s.
And, while the A321LR and the future of long-haul service is sexier than the A220, the latter will be a bigger part of the company’s future.
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