Delta Swaps Planes, Becomes Largest A220 Customer in US

Delta Air Lines today announced that it has ordered 25 additional Airbus A220-100 aircraft, in addition to the 50 previously ordered, boosting its total A220 order to 75 jets — more than any other airline in the US and surpassing JetBlue as the largest A220 customer. Delta’s new A220s will be delivered starting in 2021, replacing older Boeing 717 aircraft and providing passenger comfort at lower fuel costs per seat compared to those aircraft, according to company officials. The carrier will take delivery of five of the new jets in 2019, seven in 2020, and then another 17 jets annually from 2021 through 2024.

How Did This Happen?

With the recent news that Delta had swapped planes for the Airbus A220 for its single-aisle aircraft, it begs the question of how this all came to be. While JetBlue had long been known as the largest American customer of the smaller planes in Delta’s arsenal, these new planes are set to make a significant impact on our skies. Here’s how it happened.

The Airbus A220 was announced with considerable fanfare during an aviation conference in 2013. It is relatively lightweight and does not require much fuel — good for anyone looking to save some cash or lessen their carbon footprint by decreasing emissions. Airbus also boasted how easy it would be to upgrade the plane with new technologies down the line due to its modular construction.

The Trend in Single-Aisle Planes

Airbus hopes that the single-aisle plane will be more fuel efficient and allow for cheaper fares. They are proposing these new planes to major carriers that fly shorter routes within the US such as Delta and JetBlue.

Delta is swapping out its fleet of Boeing 737s with Airbus’s new single-aisle plane, and JetBlue is waiting to see what happens. Both airlines have received two A220s each as part of their partnership with Airbus. So far Delta has been very happy with how these planes are performing and they plan on buying even more of them. They are planning on using these new jets to replace their older planes which will be auctioned off to smaller carriers around the world. This move by Delta could be considered a trend in that other major carriers like United and American Airlines may start switching to single-aisle planes for their shorter flights as well — leading to a market that is controlled mostly by Airbus.

Inside A220s

The Airbus A220 has quickly become a huge player in the airline industry since its recent introduction, surpassing even the veteran airline, JetBlue. Delta Air Lines’ decision to purchase the new plane over Boeing’s 737s and Airbus’ airbus 320s last November was huge for Bombardier Inc., which manufactures and designs these single-aisle planes. Originally making an agreement with Bombardier for 75 of these airliners back in 2016, Delta has now finalized an order for 100 of these aircrafts. As of this month they are now going to take delivery on all of them by 2023.

Why is Delta Switching from Boeing?

A Delta spokesman said that it decided to switch from Boeing because the airline is interested in optimizing its fleet and making efficient use of its capital investments. Delta will purchase 75 Airbus planes for about $4 billion.

Delta already has 25 Boeing jets of its own, and it has used its own jets for international flights between Atlanta and Paris. Delta’s contract with Airbus will cover an additional 75 firm orders with options to purchase 50 more planes as well as two years of spare parts. As part of that agreement Delta will release a combined 35 older model Boeing 737s back to Delta. The agreement also covers 12 passenger airplanes currently on order by China’s Comac company, which is a competitor to Airbus and Boeing.

Where Does it Go From Here?

The deal was a way for Delta to get ahead of Boeing’s smaller single-aisle 717s, which is scheduled to make its return to the market next year. But the early announcement may have made it easier for Airbus and Bombardier — the Canadian company that manufactures the C Series line of jets including the A220 — to win an exclusive agreement with JetBlue. Bombardier plans on investing $5 billion into building an assembly plant near Mobile, Alabama. This plant would be Delta’s biggest customer for future regional jets.


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