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Flight Review: Onboard QantasLink's first A220-300 in economy

In the lead-up to its A220-300 domestic flights launch on 1 March 2024, QantasLink showcased its first Airbus aircraft with an exclusive preview flight to Uluṟu. Karryon's Matt Leedham was among the first lucky passengers to fly onboard 'Minyma Kutjara Tjukurpa'.

In the lead-up to its A220-300 domestic flights launch on 1 March 2024, QantasLink showcased its first Airbus aircraft with an exclusive preview flight to Uluṟu. Karryon’s Matt Leedham was among the first lucky passengers to fly onboard ‘Minyma Kutjara Tjukurpa’.

As the latest addition to the Qantas fleet, the Airbus A220-300 marks another historic milestone for the 104-year-old Australian national carrier as it begins its ‘Project Winton’ renewal program and the replacement of its twenty long-serving Boeing 717s.

The first of 29 QantasLink A220-300s, named ‘Minyma Kutjara Tjukurpa’, arrived in Australia in late 2023. It showcases the stunning artwork of senior Pitjantjatjara artist Maringka Baker, created by the Indigenous-owned design agency Balarinji.

The Qantas-Balarinji partnership began in 1983 and has spanned four decades on six Qantas-Balarinji Art Aircraft and Qantas’ long-running uniform textile, Wirriyarra.

Connecting to Country, ‘Minyma Kutjara Tjukurpa’ tells the story of two sisters travelling back to their home. The younger sister has been lost for a long time in the south, and her big sister leads her north across vast distances.

Comforting her younger sister, the older sister teaches her about the Country they travel through as they stop on the way to perform Inma (sacred singing and dancing).

Maringka Baker’s art expresses deep Indigenous meaning about sustainability through motifs, colour palette and the story of the two sisters.

Celebrated as the “most complex paint job Airbus has ever done”, around 100 painters completed the enchanting livery in Canada, using 130 stencils and painting over 20,000 dots to replicate Ms Baker’s intricate designs and bring the story to life in the skies.

QantasLink A220 300 Uluru flight
QantasLink unveils new cabins A220 aircraft during a flying visit to Uluṟu to formally acknowledge Pitjantjatjara artist Maringka Baker and the connection to Country and the livery of the new aircraft.
QantasLink A220 300 Uluru Maringka Baker
Pitjantjatjara artist Maringka Baker.

Ensuring it could meet the demanding flight requirements of a vast country like Australia, Qantas played a crucial role in pushing the limits of aircraft design by providing Airbus with detailed guidance during the production of the new A220-300s. The goal was to enhance the plane’s range and flexibility beyond that of existing A220-300s in operation internationally.

It was a challenge Airbus dutifully accepted. The result is a next-gen aircraft destined for two decades of loyal service that enables flying routes of over 6,000 kilometres, doubling the range of the previous 717s and creating the opportunity for QantasLink to fly non-stop and connect to even more destinations on runways of any size.

With next-gen efficiency also comes additional budget savings and sustainability credentials. The A220-300 burns 25 per cent less fuel and will yield 25 per cent fewer CO2 emissions per seat and significantly less noise and nitrogen oxide emissions than the 30-year-old retiring 717s.

What’s the Qantas A220-300 cabin like?

QantasLink A220-300 economy cabin

Across the aircraft’s two cabins are 10 Business seats in a 2-2 configuration and 127 seats in economy in a 2-3 configuration.

Stepping on board, I was immediately impressed by how spacious and airy the cabin felt. With an abundance of headroom (no stooping even for me at 196cms), a calmer feeling thanks to LED lighting, a muted colour palette and the largest windows of any single-aisle aircraft, this 137-seater jet punches way above its weight as a classy domestic link flight to traverse Australia in style.

This A220-300 also features 20 per cent more overhead locker space and toilets that feel far roomier and brighter than its counterparts, adding to the comfort and bigger aircraft vibe.

What are the seats like on the A220-300?

Dialling up both form and function on the 717s, both Business and Economy seats have extra padding, pitch and new features that are bound to impress. There’s also free wi-fi enabled for everyone onboard.

The A220-300 Economy Seat

Qantas A220 300 Cabin
QantasLink A220-300 economy cabin

With a 30″ seat pitch and 18″ seat width (more extensive than the 717), the 127 new seats feature charcoal and seagrass-coloured woven fabric covers with leather piping, a leather 6-way adjustable headrest and extra seat cushioning that is noticeably comfier.

Sitting in an exit row seat (12A) on this preview flight, the highlight for me in economy (aside from the extra legroom) was the dual seat back, super-fast charge 60-watt USB C and USB A chargers, and the nifty pull-down non-slip rubber tray to place your phone or iPad.

Qantas Seat Backs A220
QantasLink A220-300 economy cabin

Watch your content on your device or choose to stream via the free inflight wi-fi without needing a stand or annoyingly having to hold it for the duration of your flight.

There are no seat back screens in QantasLink’s A220-300s, which I don’t feel is an issue in 2024. But some may disagree.

The A220-300 Business Seat

QantasLink A220 300 Business3
QantasLink A220-300 business class cabin

If you’re flying up the front in business class, you’ll kick back in one of ten deep burgundy Recaro leather seats styled by David Caon with a 37″ seat pitch, a 5″ recline, and a 6-way adjustable headrest, calf rest and footrest that is 1″ wider than its predecessor.

You’ll also be treated to a wireless charging pad, as well as dual super-fast charge 60-watt USB A & C charging ports, a bottle holder, an in-arm tray table with a built-in tablet holder and an extendable cocktail table. That’s quite the upgrade on the previous aircraft.

QantasLink A220 300 Business
QantasLink A220-300 business class cabin

Again, there are no seat back screens in Business Class. This is becoming standard in most new aircraft, particularly the A220-300s operating in Europe and North America.

Where will the QantasLink A220-300 fly to?

The A220-300s will initially fly between Melbourne, Hobart, Brisbane, Canberra, and vital regional cities like Coffs Harbour and Launceston.

In total, 29 Airbus A220-300s will be delivered by 2027, with Qantas estimating at least seven in operation by mid-2025.

The first A220 commercial flights will take off on 1 March 2024 from Melbourne-Canberra and Melbourne-Brisbane; this expands to Melbourne-Hobart from July 2024, Melbourne-Coffs Harbour from October 2024, and Melbourne-Launceston from November 2024 as more aircraft are delivered.

Could this include some Trans-Tasman ports down the track, too? Qantas says, “The A220 can fly between any two points in Australia and to several offshore destinations, creating new route options in future.” So, quite possibly.

The verdict?

QantasLink A220-300 on the tarmac at Ayers Rock Airport. Image: James D. Morgan @ Getty Images for Qantas

QantasLink’s new A220-300s undoubtedly set an elevated passenger comfort and efficiency benchmark. In flight, the A220-300 feels so much quieter and smoother, with a noticeably punchier take-off and landing that adds to a less cumbersome flying experience.

The fact that the aircraft can fly twice as far as the 717s opens up numerous opportunities for QantasLink to connect more of Australia, potentially non-stop, to destinations near and far while delivering significant commercial and environmental benefits to the airline for the next two decades.

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