Delta Air Lines Has Upgraded JFK To LAX Flights – Will It Stay?

A close observation of Delta Air Lines’ scheduled New York to Los Angeles reveals that the airline has upgraded the aircraft it primarily uses on the route. Previously, Delta had been flying mostly Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. Recently, and in the near term, the airline has upgraded many of those flights to Boeing 767-400ERs, which offer a much better passenger experience. However, Delta has not yet indicated if these planes are here to stay on the route, but there is a strong argument for the upgrade of plane type to stay.

Delta Boeing 767-400ER
Delta Air Lines is flying the Boeing 767-400ER on most flights between New York and Los Angeles currently. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta places the Boeing 767-400ER on flights between New York and Los Angeles

In the last few weeks, Delta has started to fly the Boeing 767-400ER more frequently on flights between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). For example, on Friday, April 9th, Delta is running the following flights from JFK to LAX.

  • DL302: Boeing 767-400ER
  • DL315: Boeing 767-400ER
  • DL326: Boeing 767-400ER
  • DL309: Boeing 767-400ER
  • DL313: Boeing 767-300ER
  • DL2186: Boeing 767-300ER

Around 67%, or four out of the six daily flights, will be operated by the Boeing 767-400ER. The minority is made up of the Boeing 767-300ER. This is an impressive improvement on the route.

Delta 767-400ER
The Boeing 767-400ER is operating most of the flights between the two cities until June. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Fast forward toward the end of May, on May 28th, Delta has scheduled the following flights from JFK to LAX:

  • DL302: Boeing 767-400ER
  • DL2435: Boeing 767-400ER
  • DL326: Boeing 767-300ER
  • DL1087: Boeing 767-400ER
  • DL309: Boeing 767-400ER
  • DL313: Boeing 767-300ER
  • DL2186: Boeing 767-400ER

Five out of the seven daily flights, or nearly 72% of daily flights between JFK and LAX on May 28th, will be onboard Boeing 767-400ER aircraft. On other days, including off-peak days when Delta is only running six daily flights, four of those are also onboard Boeing 767-400ER aircraft.

Delta’s planes on the route

It was only about two years ago when Delta Air Lines started operating all flights between New York and Los Angeles on Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. Before that, the airline had a mixed bag of jets operating the route, including the premium Boeing 757-200s that fly other transcontinental routes.

Boeing 767-300ER
By late-2019, Delta started flying only Boeing 767-300ERs between New York and Los Angeles. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

In 2019, when Delta announced the move toward all-Boeing 767-300ER flights between the two cities, it proudly stated it would be the only airline to offer a “consistent, all-widebody cabin experience on the competitive route.”

Delta’s Boeing 767-300ERs are starting to show their age. According to Delta, these planes are outfitted with 26 seats in lie-flat Delta One, 35 seats in extra-legroom economy, and 165 seats in standard economy for a total capacity of 226 passengers.

Delta One
The Delta One cabin on a Boeing 767-300ER. Photo: Jay Singh | Simple Flying

Delta One comes in a variety of flavors. On the Boeing 767-300ERs, these are staggered, forward-facing lie-flat seats that lack privacy. While offering direct-aisle access and a lie-flat experience, the lack of privacy on the seat makes it less competitive of a product, though it was fine on the transcontinental service.

The Boeing 767-400ERs just underwent a huge refresh with a brand new Delta One cabin. These planes have room for 34 passengers in Delta One, 20 in Delta Premium Select, 28 in extra-legroom economy, and 156 in standard economy. This comes out to a maximum capacity of 238 passengers. The new Delta One seat is still lie-flat and staggered forward-facing, but it features so much more privacy than the old one.

Delta business class
The new Delta One seat onboard a Boeing 767-400ER. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Currently a short tenure on the route

From mid-to-late June, the airline is back to usual on the Boeing 767-300ERs. For example, on June 25th, Delta will run nine fights from JFK to LAX, all of which are onboard Boeing 767-300ERs.

Those schedules could change in the future as Delta continues to re-evaluate its network planning, but it seems Delta is focused on scheduling its Boeing 767-400ER flights in the short term. These planes, typically pointed to cities like London and São Paulo, are now flying on more domestic routes, which is not surprising given the cutdown in transatlantic flying due to border restrictions.

Delta 767-300ER
The 767-300ERs are not entirely absent from the route. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Instead of letting those planes sit around, it makes sense for Delta to put these on services like these. The Boeing 767-400ERs are also making their way to other cities, including Las Vegas, Denver, and Orlando.

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Why it could make sense for Delta to keep the planes on the route

When Delta put the Boeing 767-300ERs in service entirely between New York and Los Angeles, it was in a strong competitive position. It was one of the dominant carriers in New York, the Boeing 767-300ERs were a solid choice on the route, and the Boeing 767-400ERs were starting to undergo their retrofits and be rolled out on transatlantic services in 2020.

Now, in 2021, United Airlines is back at JFK with its brand new Polaris business class product and Premium Plus premium economy product. Those flights are also onboard a Boeing 767-300ER, meaning Delta has widebody competition.

United 767-300ER
United is officially back at New York-JFK now. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

American Airlines offers a special Airbus A321T service on all flights between New York and Los Angeles. Featuring a proper first class, business class, and economy class, these planes have some of the most premium-heavy footprints in the sky.

JetBlue, which has held its position with Mint, could not promise direct aisle access from every business class seat. But, now, JetBlue plans to shake up the transcontinental market using an Airbus A321neo featuring the airline’s brand new Mint cabin. The new Mint includes direct-aisle access, lie-flat seating, and doors for additional privacy.

Delta needs to put its best foot forward with this landscape, but the 767-300ERs are a little tired, worn, and might not hold up to the prestige the route demands. For that reason, the Boeing 767-400ER might be worth keeping on the route for a longer period of time.

Delta Premium Economy
The premium economy cabin onboard the aircraft could help the airline compete against United, which is also selling a premium economy cabin on the route. Photo: Delta Air Lines

The other thing the 767-400ER offers Delta is a true premium economy product. Selling this class of service will allow Delta to offer an entirely new premium cabin on these flights, which should appeal to travelers who might not be willing to pay the premium for a business class seat but want something more than what extra-legroom economy provides.

Even in other cabins, with a nose-to-tail retrofit, the experience means access to newer seats with crisper inflight entertainment. This is an upgrade over the Boeing 767-300ERs without sacrificing the comfortable 2-3-2 layout in the economy class.

Do you think Delta should keep the Boeing 767-400ER flying between New York and Los Angeles? Are you glad that Delta is flying the 767-400ER on the route currently? Let us know in the comments!