Why Delta Keeps Ordering Airbus Aircraft

Delta keeps ordering Airbus aircraft, and its future fleet will only include one next-generation Boeing type, but why is this the case?

Delta’s recent order for the Airbus A350-1000 enhanced its portfolio of widebody aircraft. However, it highlighted once more the lack of Boeing’s wide bodies and general presence within its future fleet.

Moving to narrowbodies, a commitment to the 737 MAX remains one of the only orders placed for Boeing aircraft, despite heavily relying on Boeing-produced planes across recent decades.

This relationship has existed for some time. However, like many companies worldwide, changes and strategy shifts have occurred.

As part of a recent overhaul to the fleet, including significant streamlining, Delta has moved away from Boeing and to Airbus. Why?

The 737 MAX Order

Despite moving to largely Airbus, the Boeing 737 MAX does feature. Delta committed to a total of 100 of these only recently. At the time, such a deal was deemed perfect due to its commonality with other aircraft types and a cockpit design familiar to a previous generation type.

Delta’s upcoming Boeing 737-10, from the MAX series.

Acquiring such an aircraft wouldn’t require as much training and comes with better fuel efficiency. The orders are for the 737-10, the series’s largest member, bringing additional capacity, too. However, the 737-10 remains uncertified and when deliveries can commence remains unclear.

An Airbus Future

Away from the 737 MAX with Boeing, the future is with Airbus. For widebodies, the carrier has the A330neo to the A350. Smaller aircraft are also featured, including the A321neo and A220.

These three aircraft families already make up a vital part of their fleet. However, analysts argue that this will grow as the older Boeing jets begin to retire and make way for the next-generation units.

But what has led to this significant shift from the U.S. carrier?

Aircraft Deals

Airlines are loyal, but when push comes to shove, it’s all about what they’re offered. If a more lucrative purchase lies in the hands of a different plane maker, they may very well take that up.

This has happened several times before when all Airbus or all-Boeing operators have made the major switch and caused headlines worldwide. In the case of Delta, they weren’t foreign to Airbus-produced planes, but for their future fleet, chasing the best deal would consistently be important.

Aircraft types such as the A330, which have been operational for some time, have the A330neo as their replacement, and for a company like Delta, while the 787 is an alternative, they’ve had a messy history with that plane.

So, to stick with commonality and limit the costs of adding a new aircraft type, the A330neo exists. This is seen as a great A330ceo replacement and will bring better efficiency.

Delivery of Planes

The delivery of aircraft and, specifically, when they can occur will help an airline decide what aircraft type to choose.

Ultimately, this encompasses the idea that while great deals and great aircraft are essential factors in completing an order if the perfect plane isn’t ready, the respective customer may be forced to go elsewhere.

No Perfect Boeing Plane For Delta

Thanks to discussions with insiders at Delta, the fleet makeup would’ve looked very different had Boeing made one significant decision: the launch of the NMA, which was long rumoured in the latter stages of the 2010s.

Delta would’ve considered the Boeing NMA the perfect replacement for the 757 and 767 aircraft. Delta relies heavily on these two aircraft types, not just in the past but still to this day, and it has struggled to find a replacement.

Why did Boeing decide to end production on the 757, was it because of pressure from Airbus, was the aircraft selling poorly or was it a reaction to the ongoing changes in industry trends seen across the aviation landscape?
Photo credit: Bernal Saborio

Delta has been forced to find a replacement for these aircraft, and ultimately, the not-perfect but closest thing comes from Airbus. Thus, they’ve ordered the A321neo series in sheer numbers while trying to mitigate some capacity losses with the A330neo and balance it out with the A350s.

While the Boeing 737 MAX features and will ensure Delta flies Boeing jets, it’s a minimal representation of their future fleet. Onlookers have every reason to believe that if Boeing had launched its NMA, Delta’s reliance on Airbus may not have been as firm.

A Recent A350-1000 Commitment

A recent commitment for the A350-1000, which was long rumoured, has only increased their reliance on the Airbus product. The A350-1000 is the perfect high-capacity option and even more enticing for a company that flies the A350-900.

It’s all about commonality and why introducing a new aircraft type is unnecessary. The associated costs would be high, but Delta at least sees positives elsewhere.

Others will say that the reliance on Airbus aircraft comes from just what they offer. These planes are better suited to Delta’s Delta’sand there’s there’s wrong with that.

At the same time, some would argue that Boeing has been lacking in innovation and thus seen it fall back, words that could be ushered in by critical order decisions by Delta, among other carriers. However, away from innovation, people believe that Boeing now has far more significant problems than this.

Ultimately, there are several factors as to why Delta has recently been ordering Airbus jets, however,

Daniel Fowkes
28 Jan 2024
· Aircraft 
· Airlines 
· Analysis 

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