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Delta Will Retire Entire Fleet of Boeing 777’s by Year End as Airline Prepares to Shrink in Size

Delta Will Retire Entire Fleet of Boeing 777’s by Year End as Airline Prepares to Shrink in Size

Delta Air Lines today revealed plans to retire all 18 of its Boeing 777 aircraft by the end of 2020 as part of efforts to “simplify and modernize” its fleet in the face of changes that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced upon the airline industry. Delta’s chief operating officer Gil West said the decision had been driven by the need to slash costs and prepare Delta to be a much smaller airline over the next few years.

“We’re making strategic, cost-effective changes to our fleet to respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic while also ensuring Delta is well-positioned for the recovery on the backside of the crisis,” West explained.

Photo Credit: Delta Air Lines

Delta is currently burning around $50 million every day and hopes to reduce that cash burn to zero by the end of the year. The Atlanta-based airline has committed to shedding itself of inefficient aircraft as part of plans to cut costs. Delta’s next-generation Airbus A350 aircraft is around 21 per cent more fuel-efficient than the ‘triple’.

“The 777 has been a reliable part of Delta’s success since it joined the fleet in 1999 and because of its unique operating characteristics, opened new non-stop, ultra-long-haul markets that only it could fly at that time,” West continued.

Delta chief executive Ed Bastian described the 777 as “iconic”, saying the decision to retire the entire fleet in less than eight months had not been an easy one to make. Along with the 777’s, Delta has also already announced details of an accelerated retirement plan for its MD-88s and MD-90’s – both aircraft types will permanently leave the Delta fleet by June.

To date, more than 650 mainline and regional Delta jets have been parked up in response to travel demand all but drying up because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bastian said ridding the airline of its 777’s would not only help Delta “stem the bleeding” from cash burn but also go some way to protect jobs that are otherwise at risk of redundancy. “Delta went into this crisis in a position of strength, and this will be an important step to ensure we remain in a relatively strong industry position as demand recovers,” Bastian said in an open letter to staffers.

The first Boeing 777 joined the Delta fleet in 1999 and the 777-200LR variant delivered in 2008 allowed the airline to open direct services between Atlanta and Johannesburg, and Los Angeles to Sydney. In 2018, the airline started to renovate its 777 fleet with Delta One Suites and Delta Premium Select seats.

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