Delta Accelerates Fleet Retirements

In an effort to reduce cash burn amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Delta Air Lines has revealed that it will retire all its Boeing 777s from its fleet by the end of 2020. Bosses at the firm have described the move as “strategic” saying they are making “cost-effective” changes to respond to the impact of the pandemic.

The airline is streamlining its fleet by introducing newer, more economical types such as the Airbus A350-900, which it says burns around 21% less fuel. At present, the Atlanta-based carrier fields 18 777-200s, made up of ten -LR and eight -ER examples, the first which was delivered in 1999.

Gil West, Delta’s chief operating officer, commented: “The [Boeing] 777 has been a reliable part of Delta’s success since it joined the fleet in 1999 and because of its unique operating characteristics, opened new non-stop, ultra-long-haul markets [such as Johannesburg and Sydney] that only it could fly at that time.”

Delta Air Lines Boeing 777
The Atlanta-based carrier holds a fleet of 18 Boeing 777-200s. Wikimedia Commons/Lasse Fuss

With air passenger demand at rock bottom because of COVID-19, Delta has parked 650 jets but is still burning through $50m per day while taking in little revenue. In February, the carrier completed a cabin refit project for the type which included the airline’s new business class and premium economy product.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the airline has kept the type active. The widebody has been deployed from Chicago and Los Angeles to Frankfurt to deliver mail to American troops. Additionally, its large cabin space has been used to transport a large amount of medical equipment between the United States and Asia.

Other older types such as the venerable McDonnell Douglas MD-88 and MD-90 have already been phased out by the US carrier. Further details of specific exit dates for the widebody are yet to be revealed.