Will Delta Retire Some 767s Amid Capacity Cuts?

The Boeing 767 is a workhorse for Delta Air Lines and operates several key routes – especially to South America and Europe. Currently, most of the carrier’s 767s are parked due to international travel restrictions and a lack of demand. The question is, will Delta retire some older 767s to cut costs?

Delta Getty
Could Delta retire 767s early? Photo: Getty Images

Retiring the Boeing 767s

American Airlines may have already flown its last 767 flight. Recently, the carrier also replaced some routes with Boeing 787 service. However, Delta has not yet laid plans to retire the 767s from its fleet.

Delta 767
The 767s are approaching retirement age. Photo: Getty Images

Per a filing from the airline, there were 56 Boeing 767-300ERs and 21 of the larger -400ERs in the airline’s fleet. The -300ERs have an average age of over 23 years. Meanwhile, the -400ERs are over 19 years old.

These aircraft are not too far off from their retirement age. While Delta does have a penchant for flying older aircraft, the carrier is accelerating retirements of some older planes like the MD-80s. In this climate, with rising costs, it is not inconceivable for Delta to remove the 767s from its fleet.

Investing in the 767-400ERs

Recently, Delta has been investing in the -400ERs. This includes a significant cabin retrofit that sees the airline offer an enhanced business class product, a true premium economy product, and a refresh of its economy class seats. This plane can be found on a variety of routes, including services to London-Heathrow and Santiago.

Will Delta Retire Some 767s Amid Capacity Cuts?
Delta has invested in an upgraded business class product on the -400ERs. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Investing in an aircraft before retirement is a waste of money for airlines. Thus, the -400ERs will likely remain in the carrier’s fleet for a few years to come. The aircraft is not terribly dense, and passengers appreciate the 2-3-2 layout in coach. This makes it an ideal aircraft to fly to intensely competitive destinations like London.

Delta Premium Select
Premium Select is in a comfortable 2-2-2 layout. Photo: Delta Air Lines

What about the 767-300ERs?

The -300ERs are not undergoing this retrofit. These planes are starting to show their age on the inside. In Delta One, the product is a bit lackluster, and these planes lack a true premium economy product– only extra-legroom economy is available.

Delta One 767
The Delta One product on the 767 is a bit lackluster. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

Now, however, the airline has an opportunity to retire these aircraft early. As part of a tie-up with LATAM, Delta agreed to take on ten additional A350s on top of the four existing planes in LATAM’s fleet that will join Delta’s. Coupled with the A330-900neos on order, this means that around another 50 widebodies will be entering the airline’s fleet.

Will Delta Retire Some 767s Amid Capacity Cuts?
Delta will assume A350s from LATAM. Photo: Simple Flying

While the A350s are no doubt excellent planes, these planes are not exact 767 replacements. Instead, they could be used to upgrade existing A330 routes. Then, Delta can move those A330s over to 767 routes and retire the 767s.

The A350 could replace some A330 routes to partner hubs like Amsterdam and Paris. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

Another consideration is that global travel demand is at its lowest points in years. As a result, it would not make much sense for Delta to launch additional long-haul routes while, perhaps, axing some existing destinations.

This could make retiring the 767s a compelling idea for Delta. The airline will save out on maintenance costs, any retrofit costs, and receive additional fleet simplification.


Most likely, Delta will not retire all of its 767-300ERs right away. It will be a slow process that also depends on aircraft deliveries. For now, Delta has deferred its deliveries for 2020 with future alterations likely.

Do you think Delta should retire some 767s? Let us know in the comments!