Delta Air Lines plans to retire its 18 widebody Boeing B777s by the end of 2020 as a result of drastic drop in demand due to COVID-10 pandemic. Delta, like many other airlines, is moving towards simplification of fleet and would operate modern aircraft which are capable of performing the same mission, at a lower cost.
The B777 joined Delta’s fleet in 1999 and helped the airline start new non-stop and ultra-long-haul markets that no other airliner could fly back then.
In April, the airline announced its plans to accelerate the retirement of MD-88 and MD-90 fleets to June. Rival American Airlines had announced early retirement of MD-88 and B757, along with immediate retirement of E-190s and B767s. Delta has been plugging its cash flow by parking a large percentage of its fleet since the onset of COVID-19 situation. To date, the airline has parked more than 650 mainline and regional aircraft to adjust capacity to match reduced customer demand.
The Boeing 777-200 first entered the fleet in 1999 and grew to 18 aircraft, including 10 of the long-range 777-200LR variant, which arrived in 2008. At the time, aircraft was uniquely positioned to fly non-stop between Atlanta and Johannesburg, South Africa, Los Angeles to Sydney and other distant destinations.Delta will continue flying its fleet of long-haul next generation Airbus A350-900s, which burn 21% less fuel per seat than the 777s they will replace.
The airline started operations between New York JFK and Mumbai in December last year with the B777-200LR with four cabin classes. With the change in scenario, one wonders if the airline will return to Mumbai immediately or terminate the flights. If it does, the airline will have to operate the A350 which accommodates 306 passengers as compared to 288 in the B777-200LR.
More specific details of the timing of the 777’s exit from the fleet will be disclosed at a later date.