Which Aircraft Have Been Retired By US Carriers Because Of COVID?

COVID-19 has had an impact on airline operations and fleets around the world. Reductions in service have been dramatic, and many aircraft are stored. But the longer-term slowdown predicted has led to early retirements of many aircraft. This article takes a look at the main aircraft retirements by US airlines.

Delta Boeing 777
Delta will retire its whole 777 fleet, directly due to COVID-19. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines – retiring the 777 and MD-88/MD-90

One of the most surprising COVID-19 related retirements came in May when Delta Air Lines announced it would retire its whole fleet of 18 777-200 aircraft by the end of the year. The 777 has featured for over 20 years on the airline’s longest routes, including Sydney, Johannesburg, Mumbai, and Shanghai. The Airbus A350 will replace it, with many routes now switching to the A350.

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Delta Shanghai
The Delta 777 fleet is one of the more surprising casualties of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Getty Images

Delta also sped up the retirement of its MD-88 and MD-90 aircraft. These made their final flights on June 2nd, after operating with the airline for over 30 years. American Airlines and Allegiant Air had already retired their aircraft, leaving Delta as the only operator in North America. The Airbus A320 and A220 will replace them.

Delta Air Lines, MD-90, MD-88
The MD-88 and MD-90 have been with Delta for over 30 years Photo: Getty Images

American Airlines – retiring the E190, 757 and 767, and the A330

American Airlines will operate post-COVID missing several aircraft types. It has retired its fleets of 20 Embraer E190 and 17 Boeing 767-300ER aircraft as of the end of April.

In addition, retirement is confirmed, and accelerated, for its 34 Boeing 757-200, nine Airbus A330-300 aircraft, and 19 Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft operated by PSA Airline.

American Airlines E190
The Embraer E190 has now been retired by American Airlines. Photo: Getty Images

Most of these aircraft were all already planned for retirement, but this has come early due to the slowdown in aviation. For example, the 757 was previously scheduled for retirement by the end of 2021, and the 767 for May 2020.

American 757
The 757 is still flying, but its retirement is brought forward.  Photo: Getty Images

The retirements will simplify the American Airlines fleet. The narrowbody fleet now will now contain just the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737 families, offering only two different cockpit types.

Simple Flying also recently discussed the possibility that American will follow Delta and retire its Boeing 777 aircraft. While there has been no confirmation of this, the slowdown could see the 787 take over its operations.

United Airlines – just the smaller jets for now

United Airlines has not yet made the dramatic retirements seen at its competitors American and Delta. Retirement plans are in place for its smaller jets, the ERJ-145, and the CRJ200,. These are unlikely to return post-COVID, as Simple Flying recently reported.

Larger aircraft though are safe so far. However, President Scott Kirby has said that if retirements became necessary, the older Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft would likely be the first to go.

United Airlines 757
The 757s could be some of the first to go from United. Photo: Getty Images

What do you make of all the COVID-19 related aircraft retirements? Will it improve fleets, or will you miss the well-established aircraft? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. 

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