5 Years In: How Delta Is Using Its Airbus A321s

Delta presently has 121 Airbus A321ceos with an average age of just 2.9 years. Its first two aircraft (N302DN and ND303DN) were delivered in April 2016, just over five years ago. It’s hard to imagine that its A321 fleet has grown so quickly in so little time. And now it has 155 A321neos on order, with purchase rights for up to 70 more.

Delta A321
Of all of Delta’s larger narrowbodies, only one – the A321ceo – has seen more use this year than in 2019.  This example (N361DN) was delivered to the carrier in August 2018. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via flickr.

Delta’s A321s

According to ch-aviation.com, Delta, the USA’s second-largest airline this year, has more A321ceos (121) than any other narrowbody, except the Boeing B737-900ER (132). Its A321s have 191 seats wiith 140 in economy (Main Cabin; 30-31″ pitch), 29 in Comfort+ (“34), and 20 in first (37”). Some aircraft previously had lower seating densities, but they now all have 191 seats.

Delta A321
This September, Delta has 112 routes by the A321. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Flickr.

Only Delta’s 321s have grown in use since 2019

Delta first used the A321 in May 2016 with service that month from Atlanta to both Orlando and Raleigh Durham, a gentle shoo-in. The type flew 1.9 million seats in 2016, OAG shows, rising very quickly to 14.3 million in 2018 and 23.0 million in 2019.

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And now, in 2021, it has 30.8 million, a significant rise of one-third over the pre-pandemic period. Indeed, the A321 is Delta’s only larger narrowbody to see more capacity in 2021 than in 2019, although the B757-300 came close (-1.7%). In contrast, the B757-200 was the worst affected (-23.9%), with the A321 replacing some of its flying. We recently looked at United’s B757-200s operations.

The development of Delta's larger narrowbodies (3)
This shows how the use of Delta’s larger narrowbodies has changed. In 2021, the A321 is now the most-used, overtaking the B737-900, introduced in 2013, for the first time. Source of data: OAG.

Where is best to see the A321?

This September, Delta will use its large Airbus narrowbody on 14,467 round-trip flights with nearly 2.8 million seats, both down marginally on August, the peak summer month. Almost all of Delta’s September A321 flying will be domestic, with just 3%  of flights international: Atlanta to Aruba, Cancun, and Montego Bay, and Cancun from Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis.

Atlanta, obviously by far Delta’s largest hub, sees by far the most A321 flying, distantly followed by Detroit and Minneapolis. In contrast, Salt Lake City, which earlier this year was Delta’s only growing hub, has ‘only’ 1,026 flights, just 12% of Atlanta’s volume. Still, its Utah hub has 12 A321 routes; trunk route Los Angeles sees it the most, while there’s just one flight to Boston (on the 5th).

A321 Delta
The A321 is most used from Atlanta. Photo: Delta Air Lines.

Atlanta to New York LaGuardia is number-one

Some 112 routes will see the A321 in September, up from 72 in the same month in 2019, with an average sector length of 896 miles. At 2,119 miles, the longest route is Los Angeles-Cancun. At just 95 miles, the shortest is Detroit-Cleveland, although there are only a few flights.

Atlanta has 49 routes by the type, with the hub featuring rather strongly (!) in the A321’s top-10 route list. Atlanta-LaGuardia will be almost exclusively by the aircraft, helping to get more from LaGuardia’s scarce slots. The same is true for Atlanta-Washington National.

  1. Atlanta-LaGuardia: 640 flights by Delta’s A321s in September
  2. Atlanta-Boston: 604
  3. Atlanta-Austin: 464
  4. Atlanta-Dallas Fort Worth: 439
  5. Atlanta-Washington National: 410
  6. Atlanta-Kansas City: 386
  7. Atlanta-Memphis: 344
  8. Atlanta-San Antonio: 338
  9. Atlanta-Los Angeles: 294
  10. Atlanta-Raleigh Durham: 291

What are your best memories of the A321? Let us know in the comments.

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