How Much Did Delta’s Fleet Change In 2020?

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Delta Air Lines entered 2020 expecting it to be an excellent year. However, those plans were quickly scuttled after the pandemic started to spread across the globe. Entering crisis mode, the airline quickly moved to cut costs and streamline its fleet. Delta retired a whopping 227 jets in 2020.

Delta MD-88
The MD-88 retirements were one of the most iconic aircraft retirements in 2020. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta’s fleet entering 2020

Delta started 2020 with a fleet of 898 mainline jets:

  • 91 Boeing 717s
  • 10 Boeing 737-700s
  • 77 Boeing 737-800s
  • 130 Boeing 737-900ERs
  • 100 Boeing 757-200s
  • 16 Boeing 757-300s
  • 56 Boeing 767-300ERs
  • 21 Boeing 767-400ERs
  • Eight Boeing 777-200ERs
  • 10 Boeing 777-200LRs
  • 28 Airbus A220-100s
  • 57 Airbus A319s
  • 62 Airbus A320s
  • 96 Airbus A321s
  • 11 Airbus A330-200s
  • 31 Airbus A330-300s
  • Four Airbus A330-900neos
  • 13 Airbus A350-900
  • 47 McDonnell Douglas MD-88s
  • 30 McDonnell Douglas MD-90s

This large and varied fleet was something Delta had been working on for years. The airline desperately wanted to streamline its fleet and move toward a more efficient narrowbody and widebody operation.

Delta Boeing 717
Delta had a wide and varied fleet in 2019. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta had previously expected to retire all of its MD-90s by the end of 2022. The MD-80s were set to depart in 2020 as the airline expected to take delivery of 72 new jets in 2020.

The retirements

Ending 2020, the airline operated 750 mainline jets:

  • 50 Boeing 717s
  • 77 Boeing 737-800s
  • 130 Boeing 737-900ERs
  • 100 Boeing 757-200s
  • 16 Boeing 757-300s
  • 34 Boeing 767-300ERs
  • 21 Boeing 767-400ERs
  • 38 Airbus A220-100s
  • Five Airbus A220-300s
  • 57 Airbus A319s
  • 52 Airbus A320s
  • 105 Airbus A321s
  • 11 Airbus A330-200s
  • 31 Airbus A330-300s
  • Eight Airbus A330-900neos
  • 15 Airbus A350-900s

Of these, 90 jets were parked temporarily. As is pretty evident, Delta made some significant goals toward streamlining its fleet.

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Delta MD-90
Going out with the MD-88 were also the airline’s MD-90s. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

In total, the following aircraft exited Delta’s fleet:

  • 41 Boeing 717s
  • 10 Boeing 737-700s
  • 22 Boeing 767-300ERs
  • 18 Boeing 777-200s
  • 10 Airbus A320s
  • 47 MD-88s
  • 30 MD-90s

Not all of these retirements were very surprising, however. Delta was the last major airline to fly the MD-88s and MD-90s in the US, and some of those jets were getting up to 30 years of age.

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The Airbus A320s were an average age of 24.4 years old in 2019. The ten retirements of mostly older jets kept Delta’s average A320 fleet age flat at 24.7 years old. A similar story played out with the Boeing 767-300ERs, with a roughly stagnant 23.4-year-old average age.

Delta Shanghai
Delta only had 18 Boeing 777s in its fleet. Photo: Getty Images

The Boeing 777s, for their part, were a largely added inefficiency in Delta’s fleet. The carrier only had 18 of the jets in its fleet, and the carrier already had a sizable number of Airbus A350s on order. Moving forward, Delta believed the A350 would be a better bet, and by the time those jets would enter the airline’s fleet, the carrier would be in a period of sustained recovery where it would need the A350s to operate its long-haul flights.

The 10 Boeing 737-700s were also oddballs in Delta’s fleet. There were only 10 of the type in service, and Delta mainly used them on lower-demand routes and routes to airports where it needed an aircraft that could serve airports with short runways.

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Delta Boeing 767
Delta still has 34 Boeing 767-300ERs it plans to retire by 2025. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta has charted a course to retire the remaining 34 Boeing 767-300ERs by the end of 2025. The same story plays out for the Boeing 717s. It is usual for airlines to gradually retire some fleets as it moves toward the complete elimination of the type.

The regional fleet

At the end of 2019, Delta’s regional partners operated the following 442 regional jets:

  • 117 CRJ200s
  • 34 CRJ700s
  • 161 CRJ900s
  • 22 Embraer E170s
  • 108 Embraer E175s

At the end of 2020, Delta’s regional partners flew the following jets:

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  • 54 CRJ200s
  • 24 CRJ700s
  • 150 CRJ900s
  • 18 Embraer E170s
  • 94 Embraer E175s

This brought Delta’s regional fleet down to 340 aircraft. The loss of aircraft primarily came from accelerated CRJ200 retirements. Delta plans to end CRJ200 flying by the end of 2023.

Delta connection CRJ 200 getty
Delta’s smallest regional planes are the CRJ200s. Photo: Getty Images

In addition, Delta ended its relationships with Compass Airlines and GoJet Airlines. Compass previously flew 24 E175s for Delta, while GoJet flew 12 CRJ700s and seven CRJ900s for Delta. The flying contract with Republic reduced slightly as two Embraer E170s were removed from operation.

Endeavor Air, Delta’s wholly-owned regional subsidiary, continues to operate the largest number of regional jets, 171 in total, on behalf of Delta.

New aircraft deliveries

Some fleets actually increased in size as Delta took new deliveries. The airline’s first A220-300s finally arrived and entered commercial service. Delta also took 10 A220-100s in 2020.

Delta Airbus A220-100
Delta’s Airbus A220-100s have been a passenger and airline favorite. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Another nine Airbus A321ceos were delivered new to Delta. The final 22 of these aircraft will arrive in 2021, before the A321neos start coming in 2022 and beyond. On the widebody front, Delta took four Airbus A330-900neos. Also, the airline took two Airbus A350-900s.

Delta Airbus A350s
Delta still has 20 Airbus A350s on order. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

On order, Delta continues to have a backlog of over 200 jets. The total of 223 purchase commitments include:

  • Seven Airbus A220-100s
  • 45 Airbus A220-300s
  • 22 Airbus A321ceos
  • 100 Airbus A321neos
  • 29 Airbus A330-900neos
  • 20 Airbus A350-900s

This year, Delta will take delivery of the following jets:

  • Three Airbus A220-100s
  • Five Airbus A220-300s
  • 22 Airbus A321ceos
  • Three Airbus A330-900neos
  • One CRJ-900 (for regional operations)

Which of these Delta aircraft will you miss the most? Which of Delta’s newest jets are you most excited to fly on? Let us know in the comments!

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