American carrier Delta Air Lines has today announced a decision to retire its 18 Boeing 777s, in a move that will see the aircraft removed from the carrier's fleet by the end of 2020. This follows a similar announcement made by the carrier last month to accelerate the retirement of its MD-88 and MD-90 fleets to June 2020.
A Delta Boeing 777-200LR at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Photo by Matt Lino | AeroNewsX
This change has been necessitated by the harsh operating environment brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Delta's Chief Operating Officer Gil West, the carrier is "making strategic, cost-effective changes to its fleet" to ensure that it is "well-positioned for the recovery on the backside of the crisis." This will allow Delta to move forward with its long-haul operations using newer and more cost-efficient aircraft such as the Airbus A350-900, which with a range of 15,000 kilometres and typical seating of 300-350 in a 3-class layout, burns 21% less fuel than the 777-200 it is set to replace.
Making the economic case for the change, Delta's Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said: "Delta is currently burning about $50 million every day, and steps like this help us stem the bleeding, in an effort to safeguard Delta jobs and our future."
The 777 has been part of Delta's fleet since 1999, and has long been used to operate non-stop, ultra-long-haul routes. This includes the airline's Johannesburg to Atlanta route (DL201) which at 13,581 kilometres covered in approximately 16h 25m, is the world's 10th longest flight route.
In light of reduced passenger operations during the coronavirus crisis, Delta's 777 fleet has been used to ferry cargo, mail to U.S. military troops abroad, and repatriate American citizens from across the world. However, most of the carrier's aircraft, numbering 650, have been parked in order to match the reduced demand experienced arising from travel restrictions globally.