Following United’s major fleet announcement, another positive development from the US airline sector comes from Delta, which has entered into agreements to add 29 used Boeing 737-900ERs and lease seven used Airbus A350-900s as part of its fleet streamlining and modernisation programme.
In response to the worldwide aircraft groundings implemented in response to the Covid-19, Delta decided to simplify its fleet and bring forward the retirements of 18 B777s, and its MD-88 and MD-90 narrowbody fleets. The B737s and A350s being brought in as replacements are more modern and fuel efficient – and were available at what Delta calls “attractive prices”.
The airline says that the renewal of its widebody fleet is instrumental to Delta’s recovery, and will “help position Delta for sustained profitability and future growth”. The A350 replaced the B777 as Delta’s flagship aircraft, bringing greater cargo capacity, reduced unit costs and helping create a more sustainable fleet, with 21% less fuel burn per seat.
The 36 new aircraft also represent an opportunity for the cabin interiors sector as they will need to be fitted out to ensure a consistent customer experience across the fleet. From seating to IFEC, lighting to trim & finish, the interiors industry will benefit from Delta’s fleet renewal.
“These aircraft are an investment in Delta’s future,” said CEO, Ed Bastian. “As we look past the pandemic, Delta’s disciplined, innovative approach to fleet renewal positions us for growth as travel demand returns, while enhancing the customer experience and supporting our sustainability commitments.”
Delta will lease the A350s through AerCap and purchase 27 of the B737-900ERs from funds managed by Castlelake, L.P., while the remaining two 737-900ERs will be financed from funds also managed by Castlelake, L.P. Both transactions are subject to closing conditions. Deliveries of the aircraft will be completed by the first quarter of 2022, and they will enter service after modifications are completed.
In addition to the seven A350s that are part of this announcement, Delta currently has 15 A350-900s in service and a further 20 on order. The addition of the 29 B737-900ERs will bring the total to 159 in its fleet.
The agreement follows Delta’s decision in April to exercise options on 25 additional A321neo jets, deliveries of which will start next year. Those aircraft offer the lowest seat costs in Delta’s fleet.