Reported by Chris Sloan - JetBlue pressed their first Airbus A220s into service yesterday, with a 3 hour flight from Boston Logan to Tampa Bay.
The aircraft, tail N3008J and christened “Rob Dewar” after the engineer and current Airbus SVP Customer Satisfaction who is considered “The Father of the CSeries”, was warmly welcomed in a gate event at its new Boston base. Delivered on New Year’s Eve 2020 the A220 features a new bespoke tailfin design, especially for the type called “Hops”. The A220 will be “carrying passengers on many short trips together as part of a larger journey, commonly referred to as ‘hopping’" said the airline in a statement.
The A220 is only the third entirely new aircraft type to enter the JetBlue fleet since the airline launched their service in 2000. In fact, it is the first entirely new fleet entrant since JetBlue launched the Embraer E-190 into service back in 2004. The A220 is replacing JetBlue’s Embraer E-190s fleet on a 1 for 1 basis and then some.
The A220 will initially radiate out of Boston, flying market-finding new routes and additional frequency capacity missions like the current E-190s. With its 3,350 nmi range and 30% lower direct CASM than the E-190 it is replacing, the Baby Bus from Alabama will become a game changer across JetBlue’s entire network. The fleet will scale up to seven aircraft by the end of the year, with the full 70 strong fleet on property by 2026.
Even in ordinary times, a new aircraft is a cause for celebration. After the annus horribus caused by the pandemic, this event was an even more welcome occasion for the large cadre of AvGeeks, employees and regular passengers; passengers who mingled excitedly and snapped pictures, partying like it was 2019. A flight like this would normally be oversold, but due to the pandemic there were at least 40 empty seats.
Flight 1391 pushed back on time from Boston Logan for its scheduled 3 hour 24 minute inaugural flight and after a quick taxi, we were lined up on the runway. The Pratty & Whitney GTF 1000Gs spooled up, with their signature low-noise hum signature serenading the cabin, as our lightly loaded jet barrelled down the runway. Once we rotated into the climb, there wasn’t the customary applause as passengers seemed to just want to soak the moment in. In the cruise, we registered 76 dB of cabin noise at the front and 79 dB aft.
The 140 seat cabin of the B6’s A220-300 includes 30 Even More Space seats at a 35″ pitch, with four rows at the front of the aircraft and two at the over wing exits; while the other 110 seats feature a 32″ pitch. The A220s 10’9” wide cross-section affords the widest Economy seats found in the JetBlue fleet, at 18.6” wide and are configured in 2 X 3 abreast rows. Only 20 percent of the seats will be the dreaded "middle seat" and with the generous pitch it is not so dreaded after all. The wide seats still allow room for the A220s famously wide aisles, allowing a customer to pass by the cart in the aisle.
The cabin is based on the same Collins Meridian seats used by the Core 2 Restyling; however, there are some differences in the A220. The seats are upholstered in a vegan Ultraleather and the breathable cushion provides enhanced comfort over competing slimline seats. The seatback is contoured at knee level, providing even additional room. The standard 32” pitch in these seats felt roomy even with a passenger reclining in front.
There is also a custom designed mesh seatback cubby, with two separate pockets for water, personal electronic devices and safety cards. The visibility of the mesh keeps trash and gunk from being overlooked; this mesh also reduces the likelihood that passengers don’t leave their possessions behind.
The tray tables are sufficiently sized to accommodate a 15” laptop with ease. With JetBlue’s seatback embedded IFEs, the carrier opted against tray table or seatback PED stands.
Each seat has three power ports; attached to the screen is a USB-A port while beneath the seat passengers can access a 110V port or a 15 Watt USB-C outlet. The latter two are less conveniently located at foot level, but there is only so much real estate available.
JetBlue pioneered the seat-back embedded IFE in every seat and, bucking the industry trend, they are continuing this in the A220. The A220 employs the same Thales Avant and high speed ViaSat-2 Fly-Fi connectivity as on its bigger brothers. The 10.1” 1080P high-definition touch-screen delivers 30 IPTV streaming LiveTV channels, slightly fewer than the DIRECTV product; it does however still offer DVR-like pause and rewind functionality.
There are also hundreds of movies and premium content from HBO and Showtime on demand. A picture-in-picture feature and an updated GeoFusion 3D moving map round out the picture. The GUI seems even more responsive than on other JetBlue Thales systems. The IFE cleverly pairs with a mobile phone, providing a secondary touchless remote. Functionality is a basic 4 arrow toggle between menus, much like the original Live TV seat remote.
The ViaSat 2 Fly-Fi delivered its customary speedy 35 mg downstream and 3 mg upstream. This is all the more impressive considering all connectivity and Live TV is now routed through a single antenna; all this combined with the fact that there were 200 devices connected at one time.
The best IFE option is completely analogue; this being the massive signature windows, some 50% larger than on an A320, complimented by LED mood lighting.
Overhead, the 7’ high ceilings are flanked by capacious sized overhead bins; these allow every passenger to carry-on a standard bag.
There is one SpaceLav located at the front of the cabin, larger than the two aft. The diminutive ones at the aft don’t have “the loo with a view” window like Delta employs, but they are finished with blue subway title patterns; this being a homage to being New York’s self-proclaimed hometown airline.
Another bespoke Blue branding touch is the morse code pattern on the bulkhead, telegraphing the words “Hello JetBlue”.
During Covid, catering has been truncated. An assortment of free snacks like cookies and popcorn chips were offered, along with juices, coffee and also some snacks. Unfortunately, alcohol and buy-on-board food options remain suspended.
The cabin crew played a rousing game of airline bingo, awarding three pairs of space positive tickets.
As the A220 rolls out to longer stage lengths, including transcons, long-haul and perhaps even trans-Atlantic, the #PaxEx features of this “Baby Bus” will make it even more appealing, as the over-achieving sibling in the JetBlue fleet. Who knows, maybe JetBlue will be the first A220 operator with lie-flats with a Mint type product.
Reported by Chris Sloan