Delta Air Lines has today revealed plans to simplify its widebody fleet amid the current coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, it says it will retire all 18 of its Boeing 777 by the end of this year, a move that it says will modernize its fleet.
All 777s will leave by the end of the year
Delta has issued a statement today that shines a light on its future fleet plans. The major US carrier has put the wheels in motion to retire its fleet of Boeing 777s by the end of 2020. All 18 widebodies will leave the fleet by the end of the year, leaving it with a younger and more flexible long-haul fleet.
Gil West, Delta’s Chief Operating Officer, commented on the move in the statement, saying that,
“We’re making strategic, cost-effective changes to our fleet to respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic while also ensuring Delta is well-positioned for the recovery on the backside of the crisis.
“The 777 has been a reliable part of Delta’s success since it joined the fleet in 1999 and because of its unique operating characteristics, opened new non-stop, ultra-long-haul markets that only it could fly at that time.”
Delta has been flying the 777 for over two decades and has both the -200 and -200LR in its fleet. While some of the oldest are over 20 years in service, the 10 long-range variants are only just past a decade in age.
Still, Delta states that this will be a positive move for the airline. It will focus on the A350-900s for its long-haul needs, which it says offer a 21% reduction in fuel burn per seat compared to the 777. The A330s will stay also, but there’s no word yet on the fate of its aging fleet of Boeing 767s.
Flushing away a $100m investment
Bizarrely, the airline had only recently completed a $100m fleet-wide renovation of its 777s, bringing the first back into service in January 2019. These newly fitted out aircraft feature a four-class arrangement with the newest and best seating products across all classes.
Indeed, the 777s sported the flagship Delta One Suites and its Premium Select product, both wildly popular with passengers. The Delta One Suite is widely considered one of the best business class products in the sky, and was the first business class product with a door between Australia and the US.
Retaining the nine-abreast layout in economy further added to the crowd-pleasing appeal of the triple sevens. They also feature the largest seatback screens in the entire Delta fleet at 18.5 inches, complete with the inimitable Delta Studio IFE service.
All 18 were refitted by the end of 2019 and were operating from the US to destinations including Tokyo, Paris, Seoul and Sydney. The removal of the type will mean a sharp drop in the number of premium economy and Delta One Suites in the fleet, and seems an unusual move given that the project wrapped up less than a year ago.
Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian told employees of the decision earlier today, stating in a message carried by CNBC,
“Retiring a fleet as iconic as the 777 is not an easy decision – I know it has a direct impact on many of you who fly, crew and service these jets.”
The company is reported to be burning through $50m in cash each day, and is looking to drive this down to zero by the end of the year. It has refunded more than $1.2bn in customer fares since the start of the pandemic, $160m so far in May alone.
Are you shocked at the decision to retire the 777 so soon? Do you think it’s a good idea for Delta? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.