Behind the Scenes at EasyJet's A320neo Delivery
EasyJet, one of the largest low-cost carriers in Europe, is set to become the largest European Airbus A320neo operator — the new, efficient single-aisle aircraft is already flown by Lufthansa, SAS and Air India. In case you were wondering, the "neo" in A320neo stands for "new engine option," which has recently been updated to mean "new environment option." It's a normal, modern Airbus A320 aircraft, but with new, more fuel-efficient engines that work to reduce both emissions and aircraft noise. The "neo" also incorporates the latest technology, including Sharklet wingtip devices, which ensures it's able to deliver more than 15% in fuel savings from day one and 20% by 2020.
Earlier this week, EasyJet took delivery of the first of its 130 A320neos on order — this particular plane also happens to be the carrier's 300th A320-family aircraft. I joined Airbus and EasyJet as it was officially handed over to the airline at a ceremony in Toulouse, France.
EasyJet's A320neo sports special "neo" livery, which you can see in the photo below.
The aircraft is powered by CFM LEAP-1A engines, similar to the A320neo SAS flies.
It's still a larger engine than current versions, though. Here's what it looks like up close.
Passengers will have no doubt they're flying on a "neo" thanks to the letters on the rear section of the aircraft.
The first A320neo for EasyJet is G-UZHA, with HB — the airline's second A320neo — set to join the fleet in just a few weeks. In the meantime, this aircraft will be based at London's Luton Airport (LTN) and operate throughout the carrier's short-haul A320 network including routes to and from Madrid (MAD), Edinburgh (EDI) and Tel Aviv (TLV).
Cabin and Seat
The cabin is configured in typical 3-3 fashion, with 186 seats — there's one extra row here compared to the layout of EasyJet's other A320s.
The seats are upholstered in black with orange lining. The cabin looks smart and the design enhances the overall feeling of having more space.
Each seat has a pitch of 29 inches and is 17.5 inches wide.
The tray tables are on the small side, but perfectly adequate for the short-haul route network EasyJet maintains around Europe.
As you begin to reach the rear of the aircraft, you'll notice how Airbus has managed to install an extra row of seats on EasyJet's A320neo.
The location and size of the lavatories have been redesigned for a concept on the A320neo now known as SpaceFlex V2. Essentially, this means two lavatories are now integrated into the rear of the aircraft and replace the right section of the rear galley. In other words, the cabin crew seat is now also part of the door to the bathroom. While this can already be seen on a small number of EasyJet's aircraft, it'll be featured on all A320neo's going forward.
Here's what it looks like when the bathroom door is open.
Here's a look at the set up when both lavatory doors are open.
The result? For the airline, it means an extra row of seats were able to be installed where the lavatories would have ordinarily been located. For passengers, it means that the toilets just got a whole lot smaller, especially the one in the center of the galley, where I could barely fit — and I'm not a large guy!
Take a closer look at the toilet design in my video, below:
For passengers thinking they may not be comfortable in such a tiny lavatory, it's worth mentioning that the one closest to the exit (on the right side of the galley) is a little larger and suitable for passengers with reduced mobility. Furthermore, the lavatory at the front of the aircraft remains unchanged.
If there are any seats to avoid in this cabin, it's row 31, which, as you can see below, doesn't come with a window.
Since this was a flight delivery, you can see how just about everything was shiny and clean!
The cockpit featured a typical A320 flight deck — the main difference flight crew will notice are the quiet engines, especially on during takeoff.
This aircraft is much quieter than other Airbus A320's. In the late-afternoon, we departed the Airbus factory bound for London (LTN), home of EasyJet. I chatted with a member of the CFM (engine manufacturer) team shortly after takeoff about how remarkable these new engines were.
During the flight, the cabin crew served us Champagne.
I spent the rest of the flight talking with members of the delivery team and enjoyed some bubbly — all while admiring the huge, new "neo" engines.
On arrival, the plane was greeted by a traditional water cannon salute.
It's great that EasyJet has become the first British airline to fly the newest and most modern short-haul aircraft in the skies. For passengers, it's going to be a more comfortable experience due to the quiet engines reducing the noise levels in the cabin. I do feel, however, that this was a missed opportunity for EasyJet in terms of passenger experience — the carrier could have installed USB power points — like SAS has on its A320neo — or perhaps an iPad/Tablet holder. However, on the whole, it's a great addition to the fleet and passengers will be able to spot the aircraft from afar thanks to it's iconic new livery.
All images by the author.