Boeing 777s Retired: Delta Air Lines’ Widebody Development

With all Boeing 777s retired, Delta has six widebody types this year. Having overtaken the B767-300ER, the A330-300 is now number-one. We explore Delta’s widebody development and look at all six types in turn.

Delta Boeing 777
Now that the B777s have been retired, Delta’s widebody fleet this year comprises the A330-200, A330-300, A330neo, A350-900, B767-300ER, and B767-400ER.Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr.

Delta’s widebody development

How things change. In 2004, some 17 years ago, Delta had 125,000 widebody flights, or about 342 a day. With a fleet of Boeing 767s across the -200, -300, and -400, along with the B777-200ER and MD-11 (which ceased operating on January 1st, 2004), Delta’s widebodies were especially well used domestically. Indeed, about three-quarters of its widebody flights were within the US.

Delta’s Atlanta hub was a significant airport for the twin-aisle aircraft, including on frequent hops to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, West Palm Beach, and many more – including Hartford, Baltimore, and Ontario. It was a different era; a time of regular widebody use beyond obvious routes like New York JFK to Los Angeles.

Delta's widebody development
Delta’s widebody seats represented just 8% of its total operation in 2019, down from 17% in 2004. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer.

2019: the last normal year

By 2019, Delta had ‘only’ 79,000 widebody movements, a drop of nearly 40% versus 2004. Daily flights had reduced to about 217. By 2019, widebody operations were, as you’d expect, far less about the domestic market: such flights had reduced greatly from 75% in 2004 to just 14%.

Delta B767-400ER
In recent years, domestic frequency has trumped individual flight capacity to ensure higher connectivity, appeal to higher-yielding business travelers, and ultimately more market share and higher competitiveness. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Six widebody types in 2021

In the current year, Delta has six widebody types in service, down from eight two years ago. Gone are its small fleet of B777-200ERs and B777-200LRs, victims of COVID, although the writing was on the wall for them anyway. And gone are a good number of B767-300ERs, which were always the backbone of its widebody fleet.

Nonetheless, in 2021, the US carrier’s twin-aisle aircraft comprises the following, ordered here by total available seats according to OAG schedules information with all numbers rounded. Despite American removing its A330s, Delta’s A330-300s have displaced the B767-300ER which was number-one in 2019 with 1.4 million more seats than the Airbus variant. It is now only a few years until the B767 is replaced.

  • A330-300: 4.6 million seats; 28.8% of Delta’s widebody capacity
  • B767-300ER: 4.3 million; 26.8%
  • B767-400ER: 3.2 million; 19.9%
  • A350-900: 1.6 million; 10.2%
  • A330-900neo: 1.3 million; 7.8%
  • A330-200: 1.0 milion; 6.4%
Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-941 N401DZ (1)
Delta introduced the A330neo in 2019. As such, it’s no surprise that this type is one of only two to have more capacity in 2021 than two years ago. The other? The B767-400ER, whose seat volume has grown by 17%. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Delta’s A330-300s this summer

According to ch-aviation.com, some 27 A330-300s (IATA code: 333) are active. The variant has 293 seats, the second-highest after only the A350-900, with 219 in Main Cabin, 40 in Delta Comfort+ with extra legroom, and 34 Delta One suites. Most were inherited from Northwest.

This summer, some 28 airports will see the type, OAG indicates, as far away as Tel Aviv. Atlanta is by far the leading airport, followed by New York JFK (with half as many seats); Amsterdam; Minneapolis; and Paris CDG.

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Cancun has more capacity by the 333 this summer than Delta’s Detroit hub. The airline uses the Airbus widebody to the Mexican vacation hotspot from Salt Lake City, Atlanta, JFK, and Minneapolis, with up to three daily departures. However, Cancun doesn’t make it into the top-five routes this summer, ordered by total capacity:

  • Atlanta-Amsterdam
  • JFK-Athens
  • Atlanta-Frankfurt
  • Atlanta-London Heathrow
  • Atlanta-Sao Paulo Guarulhos
Delta A330-300
The A330-300 is used on more than 50 routes this summer. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

B767-300ER

Delta has 33 active B767-300ERs (code: 763; with winglets: 76W), ch-aviation.com shows. They have an average age of 25.7 years and remain a domestic workhorse, with 70% of the type’s flying done within the US.

This is somewhat aided by COVID and the redeployment of equipment, with Simple Flying previously finding that Delta is the largest domestic widebody operator with the -300ER playing an important role. This summer, the type’s top-five routes are all domestic: JFK-Los Angeles; Atlanta-Las Vegas; JFK-San Francisco; Atlanta-San Francisco; and Atlanta-Portland (Oregon).

Delta 767-300ER
Delta has scheduled the 76W, most of which have 226 seats, on 27 international routes. Atlanta and JFK to Bogota see it more than any other. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

B767-400ER

Think B767-400ER, think Atlanta and JFK. The latest data shows that 93% of Delta’s seats by the 767-400ER (code: 764) this summer are from these two hubs, although this is actually a slight decrease from summer 2019 (S19).

Delta, one of only two US operators of the -400ER, has 20 routes from Atlanta and just one fewer from JFK. Europe is important, with nine destinations, down from 12 in S19. While Dublin was number-one, it is now Heathrow, served as it is from both JFK and, from October, Seattle.

Delta 767-400ER
Delta has 19 active B767-400ERs with an average age of 20.4 years. Mainly equipped with 238 seats. JFK-Los Angeles, Atlanta-Las Vegas, Atlanta-San Diego, Atlanta-Denver, and Atlanta-Salt Lake City are the best routes to fly one. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

A350-900

The Airbus A350-900 (code: 359), first delivered to Delta in 2017, is the carrier’s fourth-most-used type this year. Some 15 aircraft are presently active, with additional used examples to be acquired. Each aircraft has 306 seats, complete with 32 in Delta One, 48 in Premium Select, 36 in Comfort+, and 190 in Main Cabin.

The 359 plays an especially important role to Asia-Pacific, with nearly half of summertime capacity deployed there. Indeed, unlike older, less expensive, and less fuel-efficient equipment, which logically tend to be deployed on shorter domestic missions, nine in ten A350 seats are international. The top routes are:

  • Atlanta-CDG
  • Atlanta-Amsterdam
  • Detroit-Seoul Incheon
  • Los Angeles-Sydney
  • Atlanta-Seoul Incheon
Delta A350
Very long routes, including Atlanta to Johannesburg (8,439 miles), Los Angeles to Sydney (7,488), Atlanta to Seoul (7,152), and Atlanta to Tokyo Haneda (6,882), are all operated by the A350. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

A330-900

The first A330neo (code: 339) joined the fleet in May 2019, with a further 10 arriving in the following two years. All 11 examples are active, each with 281 seats: 168 in economy; 56 in Comfort+; 28 Premium Select; and 29 Delta One suites. They’ll be joined by a further 27 aircraft.

Some 18 routes will see the type this summer, with the long 5,677-mile journey between JFK and Tel Aviv seeing it the most. Seattle-Amsterdam, JFK-Amsterdam, Seattle-Tokyo Haneda, and Seattle-Seoul Incheon round out the top-five routes. As you can tell, Seattle is all-important, with about half of the type’s seats.

Delta A330neo
JFK to Tel Aviv is the leading route for the A330neo. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

A330-200

Last but not least is the smallest A330 variant: the -200 (code: 332). The type’s 234 seats are spread across 34 in Delta One, 32 in Delta Comfort+, and 168 in Main Cabin. Eight 332s are active, according to ch-aviation.com, and the type has an average age of 16.3 years, all previously operated by Northwest.

DL215 from Lagos to JFK
When writing this article, DL215 is en route from Lagos to JFK using the 332. Image: Radarbox.com.

This summer, six in ten of the 332’s seats are domestic, more than double the amount of the larger big brother, the heavier 333. 15 airports across the US will see the -200, especially Atlanta, JFK, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Minneapolis. The densest route? The 1,590-mile service between Atlanta and Delta’s Utah hub.

Of these six aircraft, which would you prefer to fly aboard? Let us know in the comments.

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