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Every airline in the world is searching for a way to cut costs during the decrease in travel demand. Many experts have forecast that demand will not return to 2019 levels for several years so many airlines have made the critical decision to shrink fleet size and retire planes.
OUT OF LEFT FIELD RETIREMENT
Yesterday, Delta Airlines announced they will be retiring their entire fleet of 777s by the end of the year. Similar to many other airlines, Delta is making an attempt to simplify their fleet and move toward newer, more fuel-efficient planes.
Delta has 18 777’s – eight 777-200ERs and ten 777-200LRs – and is one of the largest planes in its fleet.
But here is where it gets crazy…the average age of Delta 777s is 15 years old (which is still fairly young), and Delta just finished retrofitting the last 777 in February, spending nearly $100 million on the project.
In other words, they spent $100 million to put in new seats – including new Delta One Suites (pictured below), premium select, and premium economy – and now they’re retiring it less than 7 months later.
WOW…this is something that it is completely out of left field and I did not see coming!
It’s also worth noting that the 777 made it possible for Delta to complete some of the longest flights in the world including Atlanta (ATL) to Johannesburg (JNB) and Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD).
However, given this retirement, those routes are subject to elimination as the only other aircraft that could possibly complete those distances is the A350-900. But “possibly” is not the ideal word to use in the airline industry so those routes could very well be on the chopping block.
DELTA SHRINKING EVEN MORE
Deltas methodology has always been to operate old planes but to maintain them well rather than spending capital on new planes however, the pandemic has completely upended that idea.
Delta announced in 2019 that it was taking steps to retire all their MD-88’s and MD-90’s (also known as mad dogs…the loudest planes on the earth) and the last one would be retired in 2022.
However, last month Delta announced they would be retiring all MDs by June 2020 courtesy of the coronavirus.
In a matter of a month, the airline has retired roughly 50 MD-88 and 90’s which is extremely aggressive.
Personally, I’m sad to see so many planes being retired.
I recognize that many people have no idea what type of plane they are flying but if you’ve ever taken that journey between Atlanta to Johannesburg in economy, it can be rough, particularly westbound as strong headwinds can easily extend the flight time from 15 hours to 17+ hours.
Fortunately, Delta has some of the widest economy seats in the business and only installed 9 seats across while other airlines eliminated inches and crammed in 10 seats. It’s a world of difference.
Understandably, airlines did not see this coming but I still find it shocking that Delta just spent hundreds of millions of dollars retrofitting these planes and are retiring them so suddenly.
I guess you have to do what you have to do. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Delta continue to scale down and retire other planes including their A330’s.
Have you have flown on a Delta 777? What was your experience? Are you surprised with this retirement?