Delta Air Lines agreed with Airbus to expand its A321-200 order for 30 additional aircraft and to defer ten 25 A350-900 deliveries set for 2019-2020 by two to three years with additional delivery flexibility. The A321 aircraft will primarily be deployed on U.S. domestic routes as older domestic-gauge aircraft retire during the next several years. Delta’s delivery schedule for its first A350-900 aircraft remains in place and the airline plans to operate its first A350 revenue flight in 4Q17 and it expects to take delivery of five A350s in 2017.
“These agreements better align our widebody and narrowbody order books with our fleet replacement needs,” said Gil West, Delta’s Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “We appreciate the partnership of Airbus, Rolls-Royce and GE Aviation as we exercise what’s best for our business, our employees and our customers.”
At the end of 2016, Delta’s fleet in this segment looked like this. If all segment orders are delivered, Delta would have 122 737-900ERs and 138 (the 93 listed plus the additional 30) A321s. A large proportion of its fleet will then be tied up in the segment from 175-200 seats.
As we can see this more than replaces the 757 fleet size. Of course, the A321ceo and 737-900ER do not quite match the capabilities of the 757. But then these aircraft are earmarked for US domestic services. Does the switch in deferring the A350 to focus on domestic fleet send a signal that the airline is planning a domestic capacity increase? This will not be appreciated by Wall Street and the other members of the airline oligopoly.
But it also means Delta may be deferring on another fleet planning segment. The news today avoids the MoM segment. Delta may be waiting to see where the cards fall at Airbus and Boeing. Several of its 757s fly long hauls that the A321ceo and 737-900ER can’t.