Why Delta Is Moving Away From Boeing?

Delta Boeing 767-300ER at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

Delta is a major carrier based in the United States. With a solid domestic and international network, its fleet spans nearly 1,000 aircraft from several manufacturers across its mainline fleet.

However, in recent times, the airline has moved away from American plane maker Boeing and more towards the next-generation aircraft offered by Airbus. Why is this?

Delta Takes A Step Back From Boeing

While Delta takes steps towards Airbus, it won’t rule out the future usage of Boeing, with an order for state-of-the-art 737 MAX aircraft being announced in July 2022.

However, despite this commitment being unveiled, the switch is more noticeable when analysing the previous generation of Boeing aircraft being replaced by Airbus types.

Additionally, per sources, Delta’s switch to Airbus comes down to several factors. However, a leading one is, often, the lack of ideal replacement being offered. A common problem is also found at United Airlines.

Delta’s Outgoing and Incoming Planes

With an extensive fleet of almost 1,000 aircraft, Delta’s operation has changed drastically. These changes have been mainly in response to shifting market trends or the emergence of the global pandemic.

Some of the more significant fleet types that’ll eventually be replaced include the 757 and 767. Delta will look to keep it as long as possible. Current data highlights 115 in-service 757s, followed by 62 767 family aircraft.

However, other aging narrowbody types include 717s, 737s, A320s and A319s. Further analysis highlights that replacements are in motion for these types. However, they may not be in the same capacity as what the airline would have ideally wanted.

The most significant fleet type currently on order and available is the A321neo family. The 737 MAX follows this. Both series have over 100 aircraft as options and orders, respectively. Below the 100 mark, a commitment to the A220 series also exists. Delta expects the A220 to be pivotal in their long-term domestic flying.

Incoming for widebodies, the airline has the A330-900, part of the A330neo family. Lastly is the A350 program, which has 27 units in service for the -900.

As a result of all these outgoings and incomings, excluding the 737 MAX, it is primarily occupied by Airbus-produced planes.

More New Orders Coming

Talk of adding further Airbus aircraft has only continued in recent months. A highly speculated deal for additional A330neos and the high capacity A350-1000 have been rumoured, with sources confirming in 2022 an agreement was close.

Ultimately, while yet to be confirmed, this deal would only further cement the airline’s commitment to Airbus for widebody. Notably, however, in the case of Boeing, a lack of 787 and 777X aircraft remains present as the airline looks to Airbus instead. The reality is that Delta will soon not fly any Boeing planes optimised for medium- to long-haul routes once it removes the 757 and 767.

The NMA Problem For Delta

While Delta has a host of aircraft on order, one persistent area has remained missing, this being the NMA rumoured to be offered by Boeing. This was at one point seen as a jet that would ideally replace the 757 and 767, which Delta believed, despite commitments for the A321neo, did not do perfectly.

Boeing’s NMA would compete with the Airbus A321 series, but in the case of Delta, it would likely be a much better aircraft in terms of fleet replacement efforts.

However, for Delta to hear the news that Boeing would not produce such a plane until at least the 2030s meant they’d have to rethink their fleet strategy. Additionally, the major airline has had to accept that it may never adequately replace its 757s and 767s.

Lack Of Replacement Means Delta Keeps Old Planes Flying

According to Delta executives, workhorses such as the 757 and 767 have capabilities that can’t see a currently existing plane or an upcoming one offered to them adequately do similarly.

This, alongside many other reasons, is essentially why Delta will retain the 757s until at least the end of the decade and potentially into the early 2030s. The company loves the plane and will exhaust every bit of life until a pure replacement can be sourced.

However, the approaching reality is that even if they extend their life as long as possible, they’ll still likely be without a dedicated replacement and will be forced to adapt.

In the aviation industry, you can’t always have the perfect scenario and must find ways to adapt. However, Delta is by no means alone in requiring such a plane to replace specific members of its fleet that don’t exist.

Key airline executives have ushered a desire for an NMA from Boeing. Additionally, leading aircraft lessors haven’t been afraid to express their need for a type.

A Replacement For The 757 Exists For Some

Icelandair announced it would commit to the A321XLR some time ago, resulting in a switch from Boeing to Airbus. Arguably, this company could’ve also been holding out for the NMA but couldn’t wait any longer.

These upcoming Airbus aircraft will replace their existing Boeing 757s. Airbus has spotted the market gap and continued developing its A321 to cater to airlines’ needs. In the case of Delta, they have heavily committed to the A321neo program for fleet renewal and growth efforts. Despite this, it can’t do the job of other ageing Boeing aircraft.

In some cases, like maybe for Delta, Airbus aircraft are the closest option they can find to replace what they’ve had because there is still no perfect plane. It’s an exciting future at Delta, and I think one of the most extensive noticeable parts missing is Boeing.

Why Delta Is Moving Away From Boeing

Ultimately, Delta is moving away from Boeing for a host of reasons. This could be related to better deals offered by Airbus, fleet continuity efforts and more.

However, many would argue that Boeing’s lack of an NMA has seen the company shift towards Airbus-produced planes. Alongside that, Delta’s complicated history with the 787 ruled that type out of the equation for future usage.

Additionally, Delta retired its 777s during the pandemic. No U.S. carrier has expressed any interest in acquiring the currently uncertified and unproven 777X.

While Delta will operate the 737 MAX, in the future,e for no,w it’ll mostly rely on Airbus aircraft to power its day-to-day operations.

Daniel Fowkes
12 Dec 2023
· Aircraft 
· Airlines 

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