Tuesday,  February 25, 2020  1:50 am

“A major enabler for us:” Delivery of A220 aircraft represents a “new chapter” for Air Canada

“A major enabler for us:” Delivery of A220 aircraft represents a “new chapter” for Air Canada
From left: Alain Bellemare, President & CEO, Bombardier; Calin Rovinescu, President & CEO, Air Canada; Christian Scherer, CCO & Head of International, Airbus.
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

“The arrival of a new aircraft type is always a major event for an airline,” said Calin Rovinescu, president and chief executive officer at Air Canada. “It marks the beginning of a new chapter. We remember it for a quarter of a century, maybe forever.”

Air Canada's first Airbus A220-300 was unveiled at a special ceremony at Air Canada headquarters in Montreal Wednesday (Jan. 15), representing the first of 45 A220s that will begin service starting this month. 

MADE TO FLY. Air Canada's first Airbus A220-300 was unveiled at a ceremony Wednesday at Air Canada headquarters in Montreal.

The Canadian-made, two-class cabin has 137 seats – 12 in a 2x2 configuration in Business Class and 125 in a 3x2 layout in Economy (which means just 20 per cent of seats are middle seats). 

Designed with sustainability in mind, the Bombardier-designed airplane also uses technology that reduces fuel consumption by up to 20 per cent per seat while enabling a 50 per cent reduction in noise.

READ MORE: Air Canada takes delivery of first A220-300

“Each new jetliner creates new capabilities and creates new opportunities for Air Canada. The A220 especially so,” Mr. Rovinescu told a packed hangar of up to 500 guests at yesterday’s ceremony, which gave industry pros and media an opportunity to tour the new airplane.

From left: Alain Bellemare, President & CEO, Bombardier; Calin Rovinescu, President & CEO, Air Canada; and Christian Scherer, CCO & Head of International, Airbus, at the unveiling of Air Canada's A220-300 in Montreal.

State-of-the-art features

Air Canada first placed its order of the new aircraft in 2016 when it was then known as the Bombardier C Series.

Stand-out amenities passengers will immediately notice on the A220 include high-capacity, rotating overhead bins (which offer enough room so every passenger can store a carry-on), extra-large panoramic windows, wide seats in Economy (19 inches – the widest in the fleet), a wide aisle (20 inches), full-colour ambient lighting, a slick, 12-inch Panasonic entertainment system, high ceilings and extra shoulder room thanks to more vertical walls.

WELCOME ABOARD. Air Canada flight attendant Daphnee welcomes guests on board the new A220-300.

The A220 also offers access to satellite-based, high-speed Wi-Fi.

“The passenger experience [on board] is becoming more important,” Rob Dewar, a head of engineering, product policy, customer services and satisfaction at Airbus, told PAX. “People need more space, they want to carry their bags on board. They want to look out the window – a window large enough so you have a nice view of the experience.”

The new A220 “sets a new standard” when it comes to seat size, aisle width, operating costs and technology, Dewar said, noting how the aircraft has “the most advanced cockpit” in the industry.

WIDTH & COMFORT. The A220's seats in Economy measure 19 inches in width, which is the widest in Air Canada's fleet.

Air Canada’s A220-300s will be built at Airbus Canada’s facility in Mirabel.

Being the only aircraft purpose-built for the specific small single-aisle market segment, the new airplane will also enable Air Canada to open new routes that were previously not feasible.

THIS MEANS BUSINESS. All Business Class seats are window or aisle, with access to a footrest and storage console.

“It’s the smallest aircraft that can fly the farthest,” Dewar told PAX. “That means you can open up a lot of routes. Instead of doing one-two hops, passengers can fly direct and the market supports it. It’s very profitable.”

The first dedicated routes the new A220 will support include Montreal-Seattle and Toronto-San Jose, California, starting May 4, 2020.

MOVIE TIME. The A220's 12-inch Panasonic entertainment system offers more than 1,000 hours of content.

“...a major enabler for us”

With the delivery of the new aircraft, Air Canada is now the first Airbus A220 operator in Canada and second in North America.

“This aircraft gives Air Canada tremendous versatility,” Mark Galardo, vice-president of network planning at Air Canada, told PAX. “It’s going to grow the amount of frequency we have on certain routes, launch more non-stop routes, and attract more connecting customers in Canada and the U.S., via our hubs, to international markets.”

“This aircraft gives Air Canada tremendous versatility,” Mark Galardo, vice-president of network planning at Air Canada, told PAX.

Air Canada needed a 130 to 140-seat airplane to accommodate Canada’s vast geography, low population density, and seasonality, said Galardo, and the A220 was, "by far, the best aircraft in its category." 

“Typically, smaller airplanes are plagued with higher operating costs per seat,” Galardo explained. “[The A220] is the first in its category to give us the economics of a larger airplane. It’s perfectly built for Air Canada’s needs.”

With all of its innovative on-board features, “We think it’s going to delight our customers and give us a competitive advantage,” Galardo said.

“We think it’s going to delight our customers and give us a competitive advantage,” Galardo said.

An ongoing modernization strategy 

The arrival of Air Canada’s new A220-300 marks the next chapter in the airline’s plans to modernize its fleet. 

“The A220 represents the transformation Air Canada has undergone and the culture we have developed,” Mr. Rovinescu told guests. “Over the past 10 years, we’ve undertaken a renewal of our entire mainline fleet, spending more than 12 billion dollars to better serve our customers in the most modern aircraft in the sky today.”

The arrival the A220-300 represents the next phase of Air Canada’s narrow body renewal.

The arrival the A220-300 represents the next phase of Air Canada’s narrow body renewal, Mr. Rovinescu said.

Deliveries of the A220-300 will continue until 2022. As more enter Air Canada’s fleet, the aircraft will be deployed from Montreal and Toronto on existing Canadian and transborder routes, such as Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and New York – La Guardia.

The A220-300’s maiden commercial flight is today (Jan 16), flying from Montreal to Calgary.

A220-300 Fast Facts

  • First dedicated routes: Montreal-Seattle; Toronto-San Jose (California) starting May 4, 2020.
  • Economically sound: 20% CO2 reduction; 50% reduction in noise.
  • 137 seats: 12 in a 2x2 configuration in Business Class and 125 in a 3x2 configuration for Economy passengers.
  • All Business Class seats are window or aisle, with access to a footrest and storage console.
  • Offers the widest Economy class seats in the fleet (19 inches).
  • Full colour LED atmospheric lighting.
  • 15% more overhead space, compared to the A320.
  • 12-inch Panasonic in-flight entertainment system with access to 1,000+ hours of content in 15 languages, plus closed-captioning for visually impaired or hard of hearing passengers. 
  • Wi-Fi connectivity, USB and AC power available for everyone.

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