JetBlue just took delivery of its first Airbus A220, the long-awaited jet that will replace the airline’s least popular model

JetBlue Airways Airbus A220-300
The first JetBlue Airways Airbus A220-300.
  • JetBlue Airways became the second US airline to receive the Airbus A220 on Thursday with the first aircraft flying to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. 
  • The A220 comes as part of a fleet renewal that will see JetBlue retire its smallest jet, the Embraer E190.
  • Passengers can expect to fly on the jet in 2021 with the first routes planned out of JetBlue's Boston hub. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Christmas came a bit late for one airline as Thursday saw the first delivery of the Airbus A220 to JetBlue Airways, just in time for the new year. 

Airbus handed the keys over to JetBlue for the first of 70 models, marking a new era for the 20-year-old carrier that will see its smallest aircraft retired and replaced with one of the newest aircraft currently flying.  

The new plane, which remains nameless for the time being but wears the registration N3008J, came painted in JetBlue's instantly-recognizable blue and white livery but sports a new tail design. The pattern is called "hops," the term for the flights that make up a larger journey, as the curved lines resemble airline routes.

Each new JetBlue aircraft type receives a new tail design, a trend that started with the arrival of the Airbus A321 in 2013. Passengers seated near the wings of the A220 will also notice the design is also painted on the aircraft's wing attachments, known as winglets, in a first for a JetBlue aircraft. 

Powering the aircraft are two Pratt & Whitney Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan engines, offering between 19,000 and 25,000 pounds of thrust while reducing fuel burn by 40% compared to the aircraft they'll be replacing, according to the airline. Their fuel efficiency is only matched by their quietness as their manufacturer says noise levels are reduced by half. 

JetBlue hasn't yet unveiled the interior of the aircraft but customers won't likely be disappointed as the airline has been steadily improving its onboard product, as Business Insider found on a flight from New York to Fort Myers, Florida on a newly-refurbished Airbus A320. The new cabin experience will almost definitely include free in-flight WiFi, touch-screen entertainment screens, on-demand movies and television shows, and in-seat power outlets. 

"The interior of JetBlue's A220 will be as impressive as the operating capabilities of the aircraft," the airline said in a statement. "Customers will also enjoy an elevated inflight experience with wider seats, spacious overhead bins, and extra-large windows."

The A220 is the fifth aircraft type to join JetBlue's fleet since its inception at the turn of the century. Its arrival comes at an exciting time for the airline as it introduces a new service offering for Mint business class and prepares to head overseas with service to London in the new year with a new aircraft slated to join the fleet in 2021, the Airbus A321neoXLR.

JetBlue is the second US carrier to fly the aircraft behind Delta Air Lines, which began flying the smaller A220-100 in February 2019 from New York to Boston and Dallas. Delta now flies the aircraft on routes across the country and just acquired the larger Dash 300 variant that JetBlue now flies.

Delta's order gave the A220's former manufacturer, Bombardier, the foothold it needed in the US but also prompted the trade dispute that resulted in Airbus taking over the project.

The A220 will also power JetBlue founder David Neeleman's new startup airline, Breeze Airways. And to the north, Air Canada began flying the larger A220-300 in January.

The first routes for the jet have not been announced but JetBlue's head of revenue and planning, Scott Laurence, told Business Insider in a prior interview that Boston will see the new jet first. Initial service will be on existing short-haul routes such as Boston-Washington so flight crews can get acquainted with the new plane. 

"We're planning around making sure that the introduction is flawless and we want to give the airplane a bit of a boost in flying easily operated an easily operated initial network," Laurence said.  

After that, Laurence said the plane will head further and further west, flying to cities like Austin and Denver before eventually serving the West Coast. The A220 has a cross-country range of 3,350 nautical miles that JetBlue intends to use to the fullest with eventual transcontinental service from Boston to cities like Sacramento, California and Portland, Oregon during the summer.

"That airplane is so flexible for us," Laurence said, as the aircraft can fly nearly every route JetBlue operates in the US and most of its current international routes. New York will also see the aircraft on routes to cities like Albuquerque and the A220 will serve to aid JetBlue's new hybrid route network.

The pandemic has seen JetBlue launch new routes to secondary markets like Charleston, South Carolina, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia to cities as far as Las Vegas and Los Angeles. They're called "long, thin routes" as demand is often middling but the right aircraft can make the route viable. And the A220 has the economics to make them work. 

"We're going to stretch the legs of this airplane," Laurence said. "It produces great seatbelt cost on long routes, and that's something that we could not do with our E190 fleet." 

The A220 will also be deployed to hard-to-reach airports including Key West, where the runway is just shy of a mile long at a mere 5,076 feet. JetBlue is launching non-stop flights to the Lower 48's southernmost city in 2021 from New York and Boston with the Embraer E190 and is forced to limit the number of seats it sells to meet the airport's standards. 

But for the A220, it's nothing the aircraft can't handle. 

"As we start integrating the A220 in the network, some of our more performance challenged airports will become priorities for the A220," Laurence said. "Key West is likely one of them."

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