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Delta Air Lines Signs With Airbus For Fleet Renewal

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Written by: Brandon Farris
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Delta Air Lines announced Nov. 19 that it has selected the A330-900neo and A350-900 for its future widebody fleet to replace its aging 747 and 767 aircraft. Deliveries will begin in 2017 and 2019, respectively.

The order is for 25 A350 and 25 A330 aircraft, and is comparable in size to Delta’s current fleet of widebodies.

“Delta always approaches fleet decisions with a balance of economic efficiency, customer experience enhancements, network integration and total cost of ownership,” said Nat Pieper, Delta’s Vice President of Fleet Strategy and Transactions. “The A350 and A330neo support our long-haul, transoceanic strategy and join a mix of Boeing and Airbus aircraft that provide exceptional flexibility for Delta’s global network as well as strong cash-on-cash returns for our shareholders.”

It is expected that the A350 will be used for transpacific flights while the A330neo will be used for transatlantic flights.

“When the most successful U.S. airline today – a company that has flown passengers around the world for more than 80 years, has 80-thousand employees and 165 million customers in a year – says ‘yes we want 50 more of your widebody planes,’ you can’t debate the fact that it is a massive endorsement of your product line,” said John Leahy, Airbus Chief Operating Officer. “Airbus is unique in offering an optimized long-range choice in aircraft that will allow Delta to continue to modernize its fleet and customize its use with the most efficient and comfortable aircraft available.”

Delta Air Lines currently flies both Airbus single-aisle and widebody aircraft, including 57 A319ceo and 69 A320ceo aircraft, plus 11 A330-200s and 21 A330-300s. In addition to the order announced today, Delta has an order backlog of 10 A330-300s and 45 A321ceo aircraft, bringing its total Airbus backlog to 105 aircraft.

In 2013, the carrier announced an order for 30 A321’s and 10 A333’s configured to fly at higher gross weight; these planes will allow the carrier to fly with increased cargo capacity.

With Delta’s efforts to become ‘Seattle’s Airline,’ an order for Boeing might have helped solidify that goal. However, by placing an order from Airbus, Delta may face additional hurdles to win over Seattle customers who prefer Boeing products.

The Seattle Times reports Boeing attributes this lost order to slots being unavailable in the time frame that Delta was looking to take delivery. Delta wanted the aircraft starting in 2017, but the Times reports the entire 2017 year for the 787 is already sold out with no slots available.

However, Delta still holds an outstanding order of 18 Boeing 787’s inherited when it merged with Northwest Airlines. Delta then deferred the aircraft in 2010 to start taking delivery of the Dreamliner in 2020.

Brandon Farris is a Northwest-based aviation photojournalist who has a love and extreme passion for aviation and Major League Soccer. To see more of his work, check out his Flickr or contact him via email.

About the Author

Brandon Farris



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  • Tuomas Leone

    “However, by placing an order from Airbus, Delta may face additional hurdles to win over Seattle customers who prefer Boeing products.”

    Is this really a fact? I’d love to see polling on that. What I’d really like to see is a blind survey of the same people correctly IDing a Boeing vs. an Airbus aircraft!

  • NickSJ

    One wonders why Boeing doesn’t ramp up 787 production faster to a higher level such as 20/month. With its long backlog at current and planned production rates, it’s obvious that Boeing will lose 787 sales because it can’t be delivered in a reasonable timeframe.

    This Delta loss has cost Boeing something like $10 billion in sales, and billions more for inevitable add-ons. While Boeing still needs to refine the 787 production process to bring costs down, higher production rates usually reduce unit costs, and sales losses like this one are pretty darn costly as well.