Delta Air Lines Starts To Rebuild Its Fleet

Delta Air Lines has already started reactivating Boeing 717s and Boeing 767-300ERs as part of its fleet rebuild. These two fleets, which the carrier is viewing as very flexible, are signs of the carrier’s optimistic view of recovery. However, in the second quarter, the airline grew its operating mainline fleet by 18 jets as it recovers from one of the worst years in history.

Delta A330neo
Delta Air Lines has started to rebuild its fleet. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta brings back Boeing 717s and 767s

The Boeing 717 and 767-300ER fleets are the ones to watch. Delta has considered these planes to be flexible, where the airline can bring back more jets or retire them as it sees fit, based on the demand environment. In the second quarter, the airline already started to bring those planes back.

Compared to the first quarter, Delta brought back three Boeing 717s back to service. Going from 50 active 717s to 53 active 717s is not a significant increase in capacity across the carrier’s system, but it is a sign of Delta’s continued need to repair its domestic network.

DL 717
Delta brought back three 717s. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

As for the Boeing 767-300ERs, Delta Air Lines also brought back three aircraft, going from 36 active planes to 39 active 767-300ERs. While these jets have been flying domestically with more frequency,  they are also being deployed abroad. In markets that have reopened, such as Croatia and Spain, while also sending the planes off to markets like Lima, Accra, Dakar, and Bogota.

The return of the Boeing 767-300ERs represents the carrier’s positive outlook on the return of international traffic. The airline has started retrofitting the planes with a new premium economy product while doing some cosmetic and comfort touch-ups in business class and economy. These retrofits come at a cost, which Delta views as worth incurring if it can make more money in the future deploying them internationally.

DL 767
Delta primarily uses the Boeing 767-300ERs for long-haul transatlantic or Latin American flying. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Airbus A330-900neo deliveries continue

Delta Air Lines also continued taking delivery of more widebody Airbus A330-900neo jets. Three more of these planes entered service in the second quarter, taking the carrier’s active fleet as of June 30th to 11 A330-900neos.

The Airbus A330-900neos primarily flew from Seattle to points in Asia. Cities like Shanghai and Tokyo received the A330-900neo service. However, Delta has recently started expanding the reach of that aircraft. Those jets have started coming to New York City, from where it flies to Tel Aviv and Amsterdam.

Delta Air Lines Starts To Rebuild Its Fleet
The A330-900neo has started flying out of New York City. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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More domestic narrowbodies

The two domestic narrowbody types Delta has taken delivery of are Airbus A220s and Airbus A321s. The Airbus A220, which Delta first ordered when it was the Bombardier CSeries, has been a key aircraft for Delta, which has deployed the jets to the competitive Texas market.

Delta took two Airbus A220-300s in the second quarter, taking its overall fleet to nine jets. This complements the 41 A220-100s the airline currently flies. Delta has four A220-100s and 41 A220-300s left on order as of June 30th, with options to take 50 more A220-300s.

One of the most significant backbones in Delta’s domestic fleet is the Airbus A321ceo. Delta took seven of these jets, taking its overall fleet of that type to 120 aircraft, up from 113 at the end of the first quarter.

Delta A321
The Airbus A321 is a significant part of Delta’s fleet. Photo: Delta Air Lines

These jets have been huge in expanding Delta’s domestic hub capacity. Alongside the Boeing 737-900ER, those planes have helped the airline unlock the potential of its major hubs. The A321ceo played significantly in Delta’s strategy of targeting higher-gauge operations from hubs, something that competitor United Airlines is similarly looking to do.

The regional fleet did not go untouched. The carrier brought back six 50-seater CRJ200s, added two CRJ900s, and added five Embraer E175s. The only reductions in the carrier’s regional fleet were the Embraer E170s. Delta only has 15 of these aircraft under contract with Republic Airways. This was down slightly from the 18 jets it had on contract at the end of the first quarter.

At the end of the day, Delta has started rebuilding its fleet. After a year of over 200 aircraft retirements, the airline is now building back a more streamlined and more fuel-efficient fleet. As the 717s and 767-300ERs come back, other retired types – such as the Boeing 777 – are not going to be as lucky.

What do you think about Delta’s fleet rebuild? Let us know in the comments!