Delta Air Lines to Snatch Up AirTran’s Entire Boeing 717 Fleet
Delta Air Lines announced on Tuesday that it had reached a deal with Southwest Airlines to take delivery of all 88 Boeing 717 aircraft in the AirTran fleet should Delta’s pilots ratify a new collective bargaining agreement.
The planes, delivered to Southwest subsidiary AirTran Airways between 1999 and 2006, would replace Delta’s older McDonnell Douglas DC-9 jets as well as some of its 50-seat Bombardier CRJ aircraft. Delta’s overall capacity will not change.
Delta could also purchase up to 70 new 76-seat, dual-class jets under the new pilots agreement.
“These actions pave the way for us to restructure and upgauge our domestic fleet, which will lower our costs, provide more pilot jobs and improve the onboard experience for our customers,” said Delta CEO Richard Anderson in a statement. “The addition of the Boeing 717s, additional large regional jets and the planned replacement of 50-seat aircraft continue Delta’s commitment to operating an efficient, flexible domestic fleet that offers customers even more opportunities to upgrade to our First Class and Economy Comfort cabins.”
Delta pilots have five weeks to ratify the deal.
Southwest, which operates an all-Boeing 737 fleet, saw little benefit in keeping AirTran’s 717s after it took over the airline in 2011. Southwest would sublease the jets to Delta through Boeing’s finance arm, Boeing’s Capital Corp. Deliveries would begin in 2013 and stretch through 2015.
Unclear, however, remains Southwest plan to replace the capacity lost in selling nearly two-thirds of AirTran’s fleet.