In today’s competitive airlines scene, having the right match of innovative products and lucrative routes could spell the difference between a sustainable business or a deeper hole on an operator’s pocket. Across different airlines, strategists work hard to crunch numbers to decide which types of aircrafts could help translate their profitability visions into reality taking into consideration operating environment factors, economic considerations and passenger experience.
Even in Malaysia, It is not uncommon to see airlines like Malaysia Airlines taking a long time deciding on future aircraft orders while airlines like AirAsia sticking to a single type/family of aircraft as they have found their sweet spot.
As a Malaysian-based aviation blogger, it is a pretty exciting time when an aircraft manufacturer tries to market their range of products, especially a new aircraft type into a rather dull jetliner and turboprops scene here in Malaysia. So when the A220 made a stop in Malaysia earlier this year, it created quite a buzz in the little aviation scene as it might fits well for one if not both the major operators in Malaysia.
I was invited (thank you Airbus!) to have a look at the Airbus A220 and I was somewhat convince that this regional jet could be a game changer here in Malaysia. Read on for my take on the aircraft.
Note: while the invitation to visit the aircraft was extended by Airbus, I was not required to write about it and since I thought it would be nice to share the experience, this would rather be a casual non-bias kind of “review” of the A220.
For those who are not familiar, the A220 was not born as an Airbus. Back in 2013, Canadian manufacturer Bombardier Aerospace successfully built and flown the first Bombardier CSeries flight. Fast forward to end 2017, Bombardier formed a partnership around the C-series programme with Airbus taking up 50.1% stake. Eventually in June 2018, the C-Series jets were rebranded to be in-line with Airbus products with the CS100 becoming A220-100 and CS300 renamed to A220-300.
And the sexy A220-300 is the one that came to KL.
It did not take long before I start bugging the Airbus’s reps with some FAQs starting with “how common is the aircraft vs the well-planned and uniformed Airbus models?”
It is to some extend shares the same features and advancement Airbus has to offer while retaining the uniqueness of its original DNA of C-series modern jetliner. Happy to hear that the tech and cabin crew would not have to spend too much time (although not as seamless as within the original Airbus planes) transitioning into the A220.
So yeah, it might not have the racoon face mask as seen on A350 and A321neos, it shares some common feature that you would see on an Airbus like a modern cockpit, the large round cabin windows, spacious cabins and acceptable standard width seats.
I had the opportunity to tour the inside of the cabin when the rest of the guests were enjoying lunch (things I do to get good photos for my readers!) and it was worth it.
Upon entering the plane, the first thing that caught my attention was not the unique 2×3 seating layout features of the A220 (and earlier the C-series) but how spacious the cabin is. While it is being positioned by Airbus as “smaller single-aisle jetliners to cover the 100-150 segment”, I felt that I was walking into just another 737 or A320.
The 2s. As a passenger that always travel either alone or with my wife, this is awesome.
The rows of 3s. Just like your usual single-aisle jetliner.
Airbus kind of guaranteed comfort!
Another angle of how spacious the cabin feels. And yes the overhead compartment is quite big too. I felt that the overhead compartment is not as roomy as the newer neos but it is definitely bigger than turboprops so it makes sense in terms of passenger experience.
A quick stop at the best seat of the plane, the cockpit. As expected, the number of traditional switches and knobs have reduced and large super clear screens are a very refreshing sight. Love the large mouse-like trackballs too!
After leaving the plane’s static tour, I received what was the best news for the day. “Azuan, you will be joining us for the demo flight!”
And within minutes, I was back in the A220 welcomed by a very friendly cabin crew!
It was clear who were the main prospect for this demo flight 🙂
Taxiing from Bunga Raya VIP Complex to the active runway passing in front the current single-aisle workhorse of Malaysia Airlines.
At this point, I can’t help to imagine or should I say fantasize on how attractive the A220 could be for routes that have potential but yet to able to generate enough sustainable capacity. Imagine having a premium fleet that can fly 100-150 pax for routes such as Penang-Johor Bharu, Johor Bharu – Kota Bharu or even point to point from Kuala Lumpur to ASEAN and Southern China’s smaller cities. Once there is enough traction, the route can be transferred to a bigger jetliner.
Thanks to the twin Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1500G geared turbofan, take-off was a breeze. Specially designed for the A220, this engines allow ] 20% lower fuel burn per seat than previous-generation aircraft, half the noise footprint, and decreased emissions.
The guests enjoying the demo flight.
A view of the overhead compartment.
Something the cabin crew would appreciate. Once-stop control-centre.
After about 1 hour, we were back in KLIA!
I have to admit that I was sceptical about the C-series being part of the Airbus family. I was even joking about how I think A220 sounds like a typo when they first announced it. But having experienced the demo flight, I see a potential on where this plane can be positioned, tapping into certain commercial segments that might be too new or too small for planes like 737 or A320. I hope that the A220 can be considered shall Firefly jet makes a comeback, or Malaysia Airlines thinking of replacing some its 737 or even if AirAsia need a different fleet to serve its lesser demand routes. In the end, we Malaysians would love a bit of variety in our aviation scene and would be great to see our airlines making money with the right planes 🙂