Delta Air Lines Expects Over 200 Aircraft Retirements This Year

Delta Air Lines has a plan to retire at least 383 aircraft by 2025. More than 200 of these are expected to exit the airline’s fleet in 2020 alone. With these retirements, Delta will move to a more streamlined fleet.

Delta Boeing 767-300ER
Delta Air Lines has already retired seven 767-300ERs this year. Photo: Getty Images

Retiring over 200 jets this year

Delta Air Lines has already retired the following aircraft:

Thus far, retirements have reached 90, not including some other aircraft that will be retired in the coming months or select other aircraft that have been withdrawn.

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Delta Air Lines, MD-90, MD-88
Delta retired its McDonnell Douglas aircraft in June. Photo: Getty Images

By the end of this year, that number will grow by 18 with the exit of the Boeing 777 fleet. The bulk of the remainder of the retirements will likely be made up of Bombardier CRJ-200s and likely some 767-300ERs to bring Delta over 200. Other older jets may also head out, without the retirement of the entire fleet.

All in all, four entire fleet families (MD-90, MD-88, 737-700, and 777s) are exiting Delta’s fleet this year. Fleet simplification continues to be a goal for Delta, which received a varied and massive fleet after merging with Northwest Airlines back in 2008.

Delta Getty 737-700
Delta retired all 10 of its 737-700s. Photo: Getty Images

Ultimately, by December 2025, Delta is planning on retiring a total of 383 aircraft as of now. In addition to the 108 mentioned above, Delta’s 125 CRJ-200s, 91 Boeing 717s, and 49 Boeing 767-300ERs will all be removed. The CRJ-200s will be gone by December 2023, and the latter two fleets will exit by December 2025.

Delta connection CRJ 200 getty
Delta’s smallest regional planes are the CRJ200s with room for 50 onboard. Photo: Getty Images

According to the airline’s President Glen Hauenstein, Delta is moving towards a more cost-efficient widebody fleet with the A330 and A350 family, while eliminating the subscale 777s and sunsetting the 767-300ERs. These retirements will accelerate Delta’s timeline to achieve a higher-gauge fleet with lower seat costs. New planes also provide a better customer experience.

New aircraft purchases

Delta reached a revised agreement with Airbus that will see the carrier defer and reschedule aircraft deliveries. Nevertheless, the airline still has orders for over 200 aircraft, including Airbus A220s, A321s, A321neos, A330-900neos, and A350s.

Delta A350
Delta has Airbus A350-900s on order. Photo: Getty Images

The restructured agreement with Airbus will reduce the airline’s purchase commitments by over $2 billion in 2020 and offer savings of $5 billion through 2022.

Barring any other orders from Delta, the airline is looking at being about 200ish aircraft smaller at the end of 2025 than it is right now across its mainline and regional fleet.

The Airbus A350s will help replace lost capacity from the 777 retirements while the A330neos will help cover 767 routes. The narrowbody and smaller A220s will easily do more of the 717 flying. The A220s offer a much better experience than the 717s, and the A330neos have a better hard product in premium cabins than the 767-300ERs.

Delta One Suites A330neo
The A330neos offer Delta’s latest hard product in business class. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Delta is not currently looking at new aircraft orders. The airline expects to hit break-even by the spring of 2021. Once it does get to positive cash flow, the plan at the airline is to pay down its debt and get to an investment-grade balance sheet.

Are you shocked at the number of aircraft Delta is retiring? Or did you expect this number of retirements? Let us know in the comments!