Delta will add 36 aircraft to fleet as it takes a different tack from United

Jul 14, 2021

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Delta Air Lines announced Tuesday that it would add 36 new aircraft to its fleet. The airline will purchase 29 used Boeing 737-900ERs, while leasing seven used Airbus A350-900s.

The move comes as Delta seeks to expand its fleet after retiring older narrow-body and larger wide-body planes during the pandemic as demand collapsed.

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Delta said in a press release that the A350s will replace the Boeing 777s that the airline retired during the pandemic. Even with the slowdown in travel demand, the 777 retirement came as a surprise to many industry observers — Delta had only just finished retrofitting the aircraft with its newest on-board product. The A350 has a lower capacity than the 777-200 and -200LR jets it replaces, but can achieve a similar range to the long-range variant of the Boeing jet.

The Boeing 737-900ERs will “complement Delta’s existing fleet,” the airline said. The -900ER variant allows airlines to carry more passengers with only marginal cost increases compared to smaller narrow-body planes.

Delta’s announcement stands in remarkable contrast to one from United earlier this month, during with the Chicago-based carrier announced a record order for 270 next-generation aircraft, including 200 Boeing 737 MAX and 70 Airbus A321neo jets.

The airline is likely getting a phenomenal deal, however, given the influx of used aircraft to the market as travel collapsed globally in 2020. Further, competition by carriers for aircraft orders has cratered as the pandemic continues to rage in many parts of the world.

The A350s were returned to lessors by LATAM, according to a report by The Air Current in late-June, while the 737-900ERs come from Malaysia-based Lion Air, which parked the aircraft amid the downturn.

Notably, it’s not the first time that Delta has acquired A350-900s from LATAM. The Atlanta-based carrier bought four from the South American airline in 2019, and assumed 10 of the airline’s future deliveries.

More: United’s big order reveals two major insights about the airline and the aviation industry

Despite the differences in the acquisition strategy, both airlines are similarly expanding their fleets and fine-tuning their post-pandemic strategies while taking advantage of a soft market for new and used aircraft.

The announcement comes a day before Delta is scheduled to disclose its second-quarter financial performance and discuss future plans with investors.

Featured image by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images

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