12 Years Of Service: Delta’s Boeing 777-200LR Fleet

Delta was never a huge Boeing 777 operator, with 18 used between 1999 and 2020. It had two variants: the B777-200ER (Extended Range) and the B777-200LR (Long Range). We examine Delta’s Long Range variant, which was used for 12 years. It had 10 of them in all.

Delta B777-200LR
Delta used the B777-200LR for 12 years. They had 288 seats. Photo: Adrian Pingstone via Wikimedia.

12-year service for the B777-200LR

The B777-200LR (code: 77L) was used for 12 years between 2008 and 2020. The first to arrive appeared soon after Valentine’s Day 2008, registered N701DN, with the final example coming in March 2010.

The 77L entered service on March 8th, 2008, from Atlanta to Los Angeles; two airports that ended up playing a vital role for the variant. On the day ‘701 was delivered, Delta said:

“By adding the world’s longest-range commercial jetliner to our fleet bolsters our ability to connect customers and cargo between virtually any two cities around the globe, nonstop.”

This quotation nicely demonstrates how the development of the twin-engine 77L – with its superior economics for ultra-long-haul (ULH) service – effectively ended the A340-500 program. There was now little need to operate four-engine machines on ULH missions, especially given much higher operating costs. Yet, times and priorities change.

12 Years Of Service: Delta’s Boeing 777-200LR Fleet
Delta started to use the 77L in March 2008. That month, it deployed it on six routes: Atlanta to Los Angeles, New York JFK, Seoul Incheon, Tel Aviv, and Tokyo Narita, and from JFK to Mumbai. Sydney, where this photo was taken, came online in July 2009. Photo: Bidgee via Wikimedia.

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It was inevitable that Delta’s 777s would go

The pandemic sped up the departure of all 18 of Delta’s 777s, with all retired in 2020. It was a fate experienced by the MD-88 and -90 ‘Mad Dogs’, along with large numbers of B717s, B767-300ERs, A320s, and B737-700s. In removing less effective aircraft, the carrier was no different from many others worldwide.

Delta retrofitted its 777s in the years leading up to the pandemic, with the Delta One cabin added. This suggested they would be operational for some years to come – in normal times, anyway. However, when the pandemic struck, it was inevitable that it would prioritize the retirement of its 777s, including because of:

  • The low number of them, especially as were standalone
  • Not receiving any more
  • The depressed international demand potentially for years
  • A more fuel-efficient and similar-sized replacement (the A350-900), which Delta says has a 21% lower fuel burn per seat, plus also the A330-900 if needed
Delta B777-200LR
The final revenue-generating flight of Delta’s 77Ls came on October 31st, 2020, with a service from New York JFK to Los Angeles. Fittingly, this was operated by N701DN (as pictured), the first to be delivered. All 10 aircraft are now stored at Victorville, according to ch-aviation.com. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia.

49,000 flights by the B777-200LR

Delta used the 77L on 68 non-stop routes between 2018 and 2020, including one-offs and infrequent services, schedules from Cirium shows. In all, they had 49,000 revenue flights. Atlanta had the most, followed by Tokyo Narita – an important airport, just like it was for the B747-400 – and then Los Angeles.

12 Years Of Service: Delta’s Boeing 777-200LR Fleet
There were questions over the range and performance of the A350-900 on the 8,439 miles between Johannesburg and Atlanta, especially given the South African airport’s hot-and-high conditions. This proved to be well-founded. Image: OAG Mapper.

Los Angeles to Sydney was the #1 77L route

If 2008-2020 is added up, Los Angeles to Sydney had the most services by the vibrant, as shown below. It is some 7,488 miles, although that is over 2,000 miles shorter than the current world’s longest route. Other interesting (but far less served) routes that saw the LR include the short-lived Atlanta to Kuwait service.

  1. Los Angeles to Sydney: approximately 7,528 round-trip flights in total
  2. Atlanta-Johannesburg: 7,097
  3. Los Angeles-Atlanta: 6,158
  4. Atlanta-Dubai: 4,448
  5. Atlanta-Tokyo Narita: 4,324
  6. Los Angeles-Tokyo Narita: 2,387
  7. Los Angeles-Shanghai Pudong: 1,902
  8. Tokyo Narita-Singapore: 1,863
  9. Detroit-Shanghai Pudong: 1,278
  10. Hong Kong-Tokyo Narita: 1,240

Did you fly the LR? If so, what was the routing? Let us know in the comments.