While Delta has long anticipated becoming the first American airline to launch the Airbus A220 on commercial flights, it appears that this effort may be diverted yet again amid concerns related to the recent government shutdown.
The airline had planned to begin its rollout of the A220 on January 31st, starting with flights from LaGuardia to Boston and Dallas/Fort Worth. Although Delta remains optimistic about the possibility of an on-time launch, the shutdown has impacted the availability of FAA inspectors in addition to many other government employees.
Airlines are required to follow several certification procedures prior to launching a new model, and while the A220 itself was approved in 2016, Delta remains subject to an operational review before the plane can be added to its certificate.
While the certification process is often drawn-out regardless of external circumstances, the FAA employees responsible for the operational review will not be working until the end of the shutdown. As Delta has stayed relatively quiet regarding the status of its certification, it is difficult to speculate on whether this situation will impact its plans to launch later this month.
That said, the airline remains confident in its ability to remain on schedule despite the shutdown: “Delta continues to monitor the situation and will work with the FAA to ensure that the A220 is fully certified when it enters our fleet. No customer disruption or impact to schedules are expected.”
Beyond the certification of a given aircraft, each airline must demonstrate to the FAA that it is prepared and capable of operating the model. Pilots tasked with flying a new plane are required to undergo FAA-approved training, and each aircraft must contain specific safety measures.
This is not the first obstacle Delta has faced in its ongoing efforts to beat other American airlines in the race to launch the Airbus A220. Its first challenge involved a long legal battle with Boeing over Delta’s right to import the model from the Canadian Bombardier. Following a victory in that case, the airline finally acquired an A220 in October.
In addition to initial routes from New York’s LaGuardia airport to both Dallas and Boston, Delta plans to add the A220 to flights to other American cities including Salt Lake City, Houston, and Detroit. The airline currently owns four copies of the model.
The American government shutdown has centered around President Donald Trump’s demand for funding for a border wall. Having started on December 22nd, all signs indicate that it will enter its third week without a solution and with no end in sight, raising questions about Delta’s ability to receive approval prior to the end of the month.
Without word from the FAA or any clear indication from Delta regarding its situation and position in the certification process, only time will tell whether the A220’s launch will eventually be postponed in light of political circumstances.