Delta’s Boeing 777 Retirement Means The A350 Will Fly To Sydney

As it announced Thursday, Delta Air Lines is getting ready to retire its 18-strong fleet of Boeing 777s. This means that the carrier will deploy its modern Airbus A350 on the route between Sydney and Los Angeles by the end of 2020.

Delta A350
Delta will be flying its modern A350 to Sydney from LAX by the end of the year. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Burning 21% less fuel per seat

On Thursday, Delta Air Lines announced that it would be retiring its Boeing 777s early as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a bid to accelerate the carrier’s strategy to simplify and modernize its fleet, the 18 777s will be retired by the end of the year.

This means that more of Delta’s long-haul services will be operated by the more modern and fuel-efficient Airbus A350s.

“Delta will continue flying its fleet of long-haul next generation Airbus A350-900s, which burn 21% less fuel per seat than the 777s they will replace,” the airline said in a statement. 

So, the A350s will be deployed on some of the airline’s transpacific routes it was not already operating, including its LAX to Sydney service, before the end of 2020. Granted, of course, that commercial aviation is back traversing the oceans, and the demand for an LA to Sydney route has recovered by then.

Delta A330
The A330 will also keep flying long-haul for the airline, but would not quite make it to Sydney. Photo: Delta Air Lines

A330s and A350s to fly long-haul

In an internal memo seen by Executive Traveller, Delta CEO Ed Bastian told the airline’s staff that,

“Retiring a fleet as iconic as the 777 is not an easy decision. (…) Our A330s and A350-900s, which are more fuel-efficient and cost-effective, will perform long-haul flying as international demand returns.”

As the great circle distance from LAX to SYD is 6,507 nm, and the A330 has a range of up to 7,251 nm, the model itself could potentially be operated from the American West Coast to the Australian East.

However, the way Delta has configured its A330neos, which are the most fuel-efficient in the fleet, they would not be able to make the run. Hence, the task must fall to its larger cousin, the A350, which has a typical range of about 8,100 nm.

Premium selection

The carrier’s A350s, of which there are 13, with an order placed for two more, are outfitted with Delta’s prized Delta One Suites in business class.  These feature fully-flat beds and direct aisle access for every passenger, but also a door for maximizing privacy.

The aircraft, averaging 2.3 years, also have Delta Premium Select, Delta’s premium economy configuration. Fold-out adjustable foot- and leg-rest, more supportive seatback featuring deeper recline and wider seats are all selling points for the product.

Delta One on the 777
The A350s feature the prized Delta One Suites. Photo: Delta Air Lines

The 777 still has time

Funnily enough, the 777s also all have these features, as they were refurbished with the concept not long ago; at the cost of over $100 million. But at least, they may still operate a few more months’ worth of Delta transpacific traffic before they are retired.

Delta is not flying its LAX to SYD route due to present circumstances, but it is intending to restart it come June 6th, from when it is selling three flights per week. Although, that seems quite an optimistic assessment, given the severity of Australian travel bans.

At the moment, Qantas is operating a weekly flight from LA to Melbourne with a 787 Dreamliner, and Virgin Australia a 777 from LA to Brisbane once a week up until June 7th as part of the Australian Government’s repatriation efforts. Perhaps Delta is reasoning that there will be enough Australian’s still stranded on the US West Coast after that date wanting to get back home?