In a sign of recovery in aviation, a Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 is due to leave storage at Victorville in California on June 6th. It will be the first release of the over 600 aircraft that Delta has stored during the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully, more will soon follow.
737 departure from Victorville
According to flight-tracking website FlightAware (and tweeted by TheAviationBeat), a Delta Air Lines Boeing 737-900 aircraft is scheduled to fly from storage at the Southern California Logistics Airport at Victorville to Seattle during the afternoon of Saturday, June 6th. This would not usually be a remarkable event, but it marks the first departure of a Delta aircraft from storage since March.
For anyone who wants to track the flight, or see where it operates next, this will be flight DL9960, due to depart Victorville at 15:10 PDT.
Resuming service, but not flying full aircraft
The aircraft in question, with registration N807DN, will rejoin Delta’s 737 fleet. This forms the main part of the airline’s narrowbody fleet, along with the A320 and A321.
It is not clear yet which routes it is destined for, but with more routes re-starting and more flights being added, there is plenty of choice. Simple Flying reported just over two weeks ago that Delta was planning to add more flights to its schedules. This is due not necessarily to increasing demand, but to ensure all aircraft can operate at below 60% capacity.
Delta has committed to keeping the middle seat empty on all flights. The airline also hopes that passengers will pay more for the extra comfort this will give. Establishing and maintaining such an operation may help the airline set itself apart from the competition. United and American Airlines have suffered negative press for their handling of social distancing on aircraft, but policies and operations are changing quickly.
This may be a smart move, as all airlines will struggle in both a lower demand environment and where they can not operate at capacity. But it is going to require them to operate more flights than would normally be justified by demand. With that in mind, this 737 will likely be the first of many to be released from storage.
Parking its aircraft
This one aircraft may be leaving soon, but Delta still has plenty parked. In a memo released in March, CEO Ed Bastian confirmed that as part of the response to COVD-19 and slowdown in aviation, it would park over 600 aircraft. That is around half of its fleet.
Aircraft have been stored not just at storage facilities at Victorville, but also at Birmingham, Alabama, and Marana, Arizona, as well as at several airports.
Some of its aircraft will never return to service. Delta has confirmed it is retiring all its MD-88 and MD-90 aircraft earlier than the planned end of year retirement. Its Boeing 767 aircraft may well suffer a similar early retirement.
Simple Flying contacted Delta Air Lines for further comment on this aircraft and ongoing storage plans but had not heard back by the time of publication.
What do you think of Delta’s response to the pandemic, and its plans to operate flights? Let us know in the comments.