First time on the A220

Background

We wanted to spend some time in the Lake District – covering lakes around Geneva – Annecy region in Switzerland and France and the next stop after Nice – Monaco was Annecy. The nearest gateway being Geneva, I searched for flights and guess what! Swiss was operating the A220 on the route. A perfect short hop on the regional jet, which I have had not flown!

While I have flown Swiss before, the aircraft type was something I was keenly looking forward to for a very long time. The last time I had that as an option was in 2017, where I choose the A350XWB over the Swiss combo of C Series and A330 to Mumbai from Paris CDG.

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Booking

The travel agent booked this flight; in a fare class which gave us free seat selection. While Swiss does serve meals, this flight was less than an hour and not eligible for meals in economy. This information was clearly available on the website. Our fare class had one check-in bag each included.

A couple of days to departure, I got an email stating that my seats have been changed and auto assigned. I logged in to see what had happened. We were moved from row 6 to row 7. Not something I would worry about, yet wonder why. The website experience was very good. Nothing to complain.

Day of departure – check-in, airport, boarding

LX529 was to depart at 2225 hours and we reached Nice airport much earlier around 1900, since we were done with sightseeing and checked-out of hotel. The hotel shuttle dropped us at Terminal 1 – which is not the best of terminals to be!

Check-in opened at 1925 hours with a lot of counters dedicated for Lufthansa group airlines. Baggage drop was very fast and with boarding passes in hand, we headed towards security where a long but orderly queue was moving at snail’s pace. The smallest of bottles for liquids were put in a different tray and almost everyone was being scanned with hand held metal detector even when the door frame metal detector did not buzz. As I passed through the detector, I was let through, but my backpack was taken aside for checks. All clear! We were through!

We headed to the first floor to look for some food options for dinner. There weren’t many! The small food court was full and there were exactly two shops which had some food on offer and both were over flowing. Without any place to be seated, we thought of going to the lounge and waiting there. The lounge was a level up and the line to enter the lounge well on to the stairs! We were back and settled for a sandwich. As boarding started for multiple flights, the airport became less noisy with some place to sit.

Boarding started with a delay of 5 minutes. There were only 3 flights left for the day to board. The flight seemed full, going by the queue. Swiss still has the C Series branding for the aircraft as was seen during boarding. The in-orderly boarding was over and at 2205 hours we got comfortable on our seats. At the boarding gate, it was the all familiar story. The ground staff asking passengers to deposit their luggage to be pushed into the belly and not carry it along inside the cabin.

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I sensed some issue with the way the crew was going up and down the aisle and soon enough the pilot came on PA to announce that a passenger was missing.

At 2225 hours, the pilot was back on PA to announce that the passenger had boarded but Geneva wants us to arrive post mid night and that means we will have an enhanced waiting time at Nice.

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The crew got in action with a water run, followed by distributing the signature Swiss chocolates. I kept myself busy exploring the plane and seeing the limited action on the ramp.

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Flight – service, arrivals

A little past 2300 hour, we pushed back and taxied to runway 04 R for a powerful take-off, banking right and flying over the city of Nice straight towards Geneva. It was a short flight and the crew again did a water run and distributed the Swiss chocolates.

The aircraft is super quiet. I got my Decibel meter out to check the noise and the levels were slightly higher than those on the E190-E2. However, factoring in the noise of the cabin full of passengers, I believe that the two are almost same. I have never been on an E190-E2 with full cabin.

It may not have been more than 15 minutes that the pilot announced our landing sequence and the crew prepared the cabin for arrival. We landed on runway 23 at Geneva and taxied to one of the island gates. It was midnight and we desperately needed some sleep, having had two delayed flights on two consecutive days.

Step ladder attached, doors opened and a bus to ferry Business class passengers pulled up, followed by a bus for the economy class passengers. Quite a long route to the arrivals section later, we rushed in to some commotion. There was a baggage belt with some instructions.

The instructions read that if you want to exit on the French side, collect your baggage here. The bag will only move around once and then not come back. As everyone read it, one by one people started heading away from this belt and we followed. An indication that there weren’t many frequent fliers to Geneva on this flight.

The baggage belt on the Geneva side had a time marked out on when the baggage would arrive. The time passed yet there were no signs of baggage. Finally, bags started arriving and ours came in not very late.

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Post Flight

We took the ticket for free public transport to the city, but due to the delay missed the 0025 hours train. There was no information that the 0107 hours train (the last one for the day) is cancelled, and after waiting till 0100 hours, we headed for taxi for a ride to the hotel. Expensive! Thanks to the delay from Swiss.

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Swiss again?

For long haul, definitely. May not be for short haul. The delay made us miss the public transport option and the LCCs are way cheaper in EU than flying one of the FSCs like Swiss. 

A220

The A220 is a wonderful aircraft. I am not a fan of 2×3 seating, but the two of us had seats on the port side and those were comfortable set of seats. The A220-100 (CS100) made its maiden flight in September 2013 and Swiss was launch customer with entry in service on 15th July 2016. Airbus closed the deal with Bombardier in July 2018.

Swiss operates the A220-100 in 130 seats configuration, though all are not sold since the business class sees the middle seat blocked and only one seat is sold in the set of two, roughly 8 seats being blocked.

I enjoyed the A220-100, comfortable. Good wide windows, great legroom and the feeling of being in a roomier plane. With the kind of economics being promised and as airlines have said, delivered as well, this will end up eating into the A319 market of Airbus as airlines evaluate and decide to order planes for future. I see a lot of technology from A220s making its way up the ladder to A320neo family once the A320neo’s stabilize.

I have been waiting to have a successful Regional Jet – now the smaller jets family being introduced in India, here’s hoping A220 can make the break-in with the backing of Airbus.

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