Delta Air Lines Expected To Order New Planes By End Of Year

A year ago I wrote that, while it wasn’t public at the time, Delta was looking to buy Airbus A350 widebody aircraft. It seemed like a deal could be announced soon, but crickets.

Then in late spring major media picked up on the story that Delta was looking to buy both Airbus A350-1000s and Airbus A330neos. Now that order appears out to happen – this month.

Though Delta placed an order for Boeing 737 MAXs, the airline mostly buys Airbus and currently operates about 67 Airbus A330 and 28 A350-900 widebodies, with another 16 and 14 of each on order respectively. They used taxpayer bailout money to buy 10 of their European A350s.


Airbus A350-900, Credit: Delta

Now things appear to be heating up, with aviation watchdog JonNYC reporting that an order for new Airbus widebody planes should be announced in the coming weeks, and before end of year.

No doubt Airbus would like to close the year strong after Boeing managed to announce 295 aircraft orders at the Dubai Air Show last month against just 86 from Airbus.

Delta historically has preferred acquiring used planes and keeping those flying with an effective TechOps business, leading to an especially old fleet. They’ve also strategically purchased aircraft at low prices. The airline was primarily a Boeing carrier before their merger with Northwest, so it turns out that the coup in selling A320 family planes to Northwest continues to pay massive dividends.

These new long haul aircraft might fly to India, Dubai, Melbourne and even signal a return to Singapore and other long haul destinations in Asia that are currently served only over Seoul by joint venture partner Korean Air. It’s the A350-1000 that Delta is speculated to be looking at.

The A350-1000 is the largest current Airbus widebody aircraft in production. In its densest form it can seat up to 480 passengers (up from a previous maximum of 440) in a configuration delivered to low cost long haul carrier French Bee. A much more passenger-generous Airbus A350-1000 will be used for Qantas ultra-long haul ‘Project Sunrise’ flights.


Airbus A350-900, Credit: Delta

While Airbus touts a fuel burn advantage against the Boeing 777-300ER and planned 777-9, it’s a large aircraft that makes sense on dense routes like U.S. – Europe when airports like London Heathrow and Amsterdam have capacity restrictions in place, or seasonally between large markets like New York and Paris, but risk driving down yields substantially to fill in many other uses.

American Airlines, for its part, is working on an order for narrowbody aircraft.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “American Airlines, for its part, is working on an order for widebody aircraft.”

    Shouldn’t that be a “narrowbody” order? The link takes you to a post about a narrowbody order.

  2. With the significantly higher labor costs looming for airlines, I’d love to see a reevaluation of the logic behind using more widebodies on high traffic domestic routes.
    Frequent flyers much prefer the widebodies and it would allow airlines to transport more passengers with fewer pilots, fewer support staff and fewer airport slots. I would imagine it would even take some pressure off air traffic control staffing needs?

  3. There are published articles and sources that have indicated for months that Delta is likely to place another widebody order before the end of the year. Their execs said a year ago that they were asking for board approval but apparently got a “not so fast” response which has led to further negotiations and a counter offer from Boeing for the 787 which would have included engine maintenance overhaul rights not just for the GEnx engine that would have powered DL’s 787s but also the ability to service that engine for other airlines, just as Delta is currently able to do on the engines that power the A350-900.

    Emirates’ CEO is trashing Rolls Royce in public over the performance and durability of the A350-1000’s engine – which runs faster than the engine on the A350-900. Apparently other airlines have figured out how to work around those issues and Airbus is including other incentives including a major parts contract for Air France/KLM which just place a massive order for A350s including the ability to include the A350-1000.

    Delta is not likely to order scores of new aircraft because it doesn’t need to; it will likely obtain options that will allow it to extend its widebody order book beyond 2026 without making a commitment to buy tens of billions of dollars. Options and orders the A330-900, of which DL is the largest customer, are likely. Airbus appears to be able to succeed at ensuring that the 787 is not going to happen at Delta any more than United appears to be confirming its order for the A350 which Airbus continues to improve.

    And, no, the A350-1000s are not likely to be used to Europe but rather across the Pacific including to Seoul where DL and KE are developing their JV relationship and where the larger size and range are much more useful.
    And DL didn’t use taxpayer money to do anything other than pay salaries which is what the feds allowed and required. Unless, of course, AA and UA used taxpayer money to pay exec bonuses and for Scott Kirby’s private jets.

  4. @Tim Dunn – i literally write about those articles which came after mine.

    My point about Europe is discussing where the plane is a clear winner vs the big swing/bet Delta is taking with them, similar to swings you have criticized United for…

  5. Gary,
    I have Seeking Alpha articles going back over a year discussing a proposed Delta widebody order. I’m not interested in any kind of contest but a simple look at Delta’s order book should show that they were going to have to place a widebody order this year if they want to keep widebody deliveries going; 2024 will be one of their largest widebody deliveries ever, they will slow down to just 9 A330-900s and A350-900s in 2025 and just 3 A350s in 2026.

    Delta is not going to acquire the A350-1000 for Europe. Period. If they wanted a transatlantic large widebody, the 787-10 is the better plane.
    With Russian airspace restrictions, the A350-1000 is by far the most cost-efficient and capable aircraft any airline could operate for 16 plus hour flights – of which Delta already operates several on the smaller -900, but returning Delta to an over 300 seat aircraft even after the expected reconfiguration to add more Delta One seats.

    Delta is presenting at an investor conference next week which is when they could announce a number of things that are product and fleet related.

  6. As to the comment that Delta hordes old airframes, Delta recently picked up seven to eight B717s from Volotea Airlines. I’m sure these will be used as spares, but these jets are hitting their 25th wedding anniversary. I was under the impression that the A220 was the intended replacement for these jets. Maybe Airbus is behind in single aisle deliveries.

  7. “Delta is not going to acquire the A350-1000 for Europe.”
    Tim, this is a bit naive. Delta’s bread and butter profitable flying is to Europe, not funneling passengers to ICN. Perhaps they’re buying the A350-1000 to be able to do ICN/Pacific routes more effectively, but, of course, they’re going to use the A350-1000 with all those seats to Europe. The Pacific just doesn’t need that kind of mass capacity when Delta’s 330NEOs can do most of the west coast flying for them pretty well to ICN.
    They may be buying the range for the Pacific but they’re definitely planning to use these planes to Europe and it’s DEFINITELY part of their planning and considerations when buying aircraft. They’d be stupid not to when you can effectively fly nearly two roundtrip East Coast> Europe trips vs one roundtrip to the pacific with these birds. The profitability of doing those types of routes with that amount of capacity is enormous. The 787J is certainly the better plane for TATL but it doesn’t mean it’s better for Delta since the simplicity of a common widebody fleet is much better for them overall. Simpler pilot training, fewer spare part inventories, etc.

  8. Exit Row,
    Delta has far more aircraft that were delivered new than they have acquired used but they have indeed acquired some aircraft of multiple fleets on a used basis, including the entire 717 fleet – which Southwest did not want and, along w/ Boeing, provided very good terms for DL to acquire. The 717 is out of production so DL has acquired a number of 717s from other carriers to use as parts donors for its fleet of 717s which it appears to plan to keep in service until the end of the decade or beyond. It is a DC9 derivative so has long life. The 717 is essentially an RJ replacement.

    The A220 is a long domestic range (coast to coast capable) highly cost effective new generation aircraft – the opposite of the 717 other than in size (the A220-300 is actually A319 size).

    Delta did acquire 9 ex-Latam A350-900s and that is part of why they have not been able to expand as much in the Pacific because those aircraft are not in DL standard configurations but will start to get them next year. DL has used those aircraft as high capacity widebodies for Europe and TLV in the summer and to S. America (LIM and sometimes SCL) and they will do a fair amount of domestic duty (hub to hub) this winter.

    An A350-1000 order plus the conversion of the ex Latam A350-900s will significantly grow DL’s transpacific capabilities in addition to what the A330-900s can do. by waiting for new A350-900s and by ordering the A350-1000 now, DL will get the most capable versions of both.

  9. max,
    you are simply spouting the same thing that others say without any understanding of either DL’s use of assets or its plans which have been stated in its public earnings statements.
    The A350-1000 is a longrange aircraft and it is priced on that basis. There is no reason for it to be primarily used for 8-10 hour transatlantic flights. You are more than welcome to argue incessantly that you know best and then proven wrong in 5 years when DL has a bunch in service to prove otherwise.

    ICN is also slot controlled and KE’s banks use much larger aircraft than AF/KL in AMS or CDG. Large widebodies make sense for many reasons including size, matching connections, performance and range as well as cargo capability.

    There is no reason for DL to buy the A350-1000 for Europe. That is not to say some might end up there but they are being acquired for Asia. All parts of it

  10. Ahhh yes. I forgot you work for Delta… Oh wait. You don’t and see the same info as everyone else. Just quit with your usual insults to try to act like you’re smarter than others. It’s a comments section and you haven’t worked for Delta or any airline for decades. Your job is writing in the comments section of blogs so chill with the attempt to undermine credibility of others who have more experience than you.

    Of course they’re going to fly a350-1000s to Europe and of course it’s part of their purchase strategy. That doesn’t mean they look at range considerations as well and the ability to also fly it to ICN. You could say the same thing for the A359 range considerations yet the planes currently in the air are pretty split between Europe and Pacific right now.

    Of course DL is going to fly the plane long-range but saying they aren’t considering flying it to Europe or that it’s a sidethought is just naive and your usual dogmatic way of looking at everything instead of considering the actual strategic use of the plane throughout the year.

  11. I can’t (but can) believe that Delta was allowed to buy foreign equipment with tax payer money. I don’t care if they paid it back or whatever. They got a cheap bridge loan that allowed them to support foreign jobs during a hard time for Americans. Gross. Will never do business with them again.

  12. Delta did not buy 350s with taxpayer money. That part just isn’t true. And also don’t expect an order by the end of the year. John O has been wrong so many times it’s ridiculous. Every few months he comes out and says there’s gonna be a Delta order sure eventually he’ll be right, but even if there is an order (and I maintain no) it will be for token number of airplanes. Deltas traffic in the Pacific is in the toilet. Why do I know this because I’m a captain for them on the 350.

  13. I’m definitely no fan of Government Bailouts, and also not particularly biased toward Boeing, but Delta purchasing A350’s with Government Bailouts is particularly disgusting.

  14. first,
    let’s just dispense w/ the notion that Delta bought anything w/ taxpayer money. Airlines received billions to keep airline employees employed during the pandemic and Delta, just like every other US airline, did that.
    The hypocrisy is that every US taxpayer – and millions more people -including people who commented here – received US taxpayer money which had no restrictions and the majority of US consumer spending is for products that are not made in the US.

    max,
    as usual, your confusion and pathological need to find fault w/ me is on full display. In one sentence, you say I am a Delta employee and then in the next you say I don’t.

    Delta is not going to buy the A350-1000 or any other A350s for primary use to Europe although some of the A350 fleet will be used there just as part of aircraft rotations and because some of Delta’s A350-900s are the least capable versions of that aircraft.

    You are free to show your ignorance but Delta will acquire the A350-1000, if it does and it likely will, primarily for use to Asia – all corners of it – where its range and capacity are most valuable.

    And for those of you that would like to argue that Delta should buy Boeing, Boeing couldn’t deliver the 787 for years due to repeated groundings, the 787 is smaller and shorter range than the A350, and even the 777X, Boeing’s large new generation widebody, is years behind schedule and even if the 777-8 is built, it will be years behind the A350-1000 in getting into service. The 777-9 will splash down hours before the A350-1000 will.

    Airbus and Boeing are competitors and both are subsidized in multiple ways, as is also true for all of the US-based commenters on this site.

  15. There’s no point in discussing anything about Delta with Tim in any kind of rational way. Based on is writings over the years, it’s his apparent view that Delta is the world’s only PERFECT airline – and thus, is incapable of error.

  16. Ghost,
    you have just proven – along w/ a half dozen other people on the other site – that you wouldn’t know the truth if it hit you up the side of the head esp. if it involves A321s.

    even among the existing DL A350 fleet – which has the most seats of any current DL aircraft – a minority are used to Europe.
    Tell us how many block hours the A350 fleet flew this year to Europe. Even considering 9 of the current A350s are not configured for premium routes – no Premium Select, no DL 1 Suites – very few A350s fly to Europe and most of that is from DTW because, unlike ATL and LAX, DTW does not have any destinations in the opposite direction of Asia where the majority of A350s are ACTUALLY USED.

    And the majority of DL’s current A350-900 fleet are early build, less capable aircraft than the A350-1000 is even now and Airbus might pull off a few more “enhancements” by the time they deliver anything to Delta.

    To somehow think that Delta is going to buy A350-1000s for anywhere close to primary use to Europe is beyond preposterous. A few MIGHT rotate to Asia just as DTW-AMS does because an aircraft is available between DTW-Asia flights.

    But I know neither of you or anywhere else will admit to ever writing what you have here when DL loads its first A350-1000 schedules – and they won’t be to Europe.

  17. It’s also worth noting that DL’s S. Africa (CPT and JNB) flights are regularly hitting 17 hours this time of year. DL is using its 2 most capable A350-900s heavily for S. Africa instead of “shared” with Australia via ATL and LAX.
    DL’s CPT-ATL and UA’s CPT-EWR flights both made unscheduled stops, DL in MIA and UA in SJU last night.

    US airline opportunities for ultra long haul flights exceed the capabilities of existing aircraft. The A350-1000 will be the most capable aircraft of any US airline.

  18. you do realize that it is “duct” tape? unless you are referring to a specific brand and then you should capitalize it.

    And if duct tape is due to aircraft age, then United needs it much more than Delta cuz United’s fleet is older.

    and DL’s 717 fleet is YOUNGER than AA’s A320 fleet. but you probably didn’t know that, did you?

  19. the only real psychos are those that think that delta will deploy A350-1000s primarily to Europe when they have precisely 3 routes right now on A350-900s to Europe compared to 6 to Asia and 2 each to the S. Pacific and S. America and up to 3 to Africa, some of which are double daily. Flights to europe are the shortest segments; flights to S. Africa are twice the length.

    Why anyone would think that DL would deploy an even bigger aircraft than the A350-900 primarily to Europe when they don’t even use A350-900s there and didn’t even exceed Asia levels of usage in the summer on a block hour basis.

    And you proved over on the other site that you were willing to trash someone who had actual facts so, when you were proven to be wrong, you run w/ your tail between your legs to this site to do the same thing.

    It’s the internet so we know there are no filters but you should at least use a different user name if you are as wrong as you are.

  20. I am not an employee of any airline, just a follower of airline gossip. So after following Ed Bastion now for a number of years I can’t help but wonder how much it will cost Bastion to cancel the Max order from Boeing? I have been confused why with his absolute love affair with Airbus, did he ever order 100 Max jets from Boeing. There had to be something in it for Delta and thus for him. So not being an expert at anything, my guess will be that at some point by early Spring Ed Bastion will announce that after Delta has continued to analyze the airlines equipment needs, the Board of Directors has reached the conclusion that the Boeing 737 Max aircraft will not fit into Delta’s long term planning to provide our customers with the service that they have come to expect from Delta Airlines. Of course Delta will continue to have a close relationship with our friends at Boeing and Delta will always consider Boeing aircraft for any future equipment decisions.
    I know I am a no nothing, but Ed Bastion and Delta have taken every opportunity to retire every Boeing and MD aircraft that Bastion can find. Oh and by the way, everyone can defend Bastion all they want for accepting U.S. Taxpayers bailout money to be used ostensibly for employee pay during Covid, so while he may not have directly used Covid funds for buying new aircraft from Airbus, Bastion did have money that was then available to buy new aircraft. I rather expect the so called firm order for 100 new Boeing Max 737s was required to receive the Covid Relief Funds. Now as Covid begins to fade away, I don’t think I am too far off believing that Ed Bastion’s order for 100 Boeing Max jets will also fade away.

  21. @Charles Good.

    It’s obvious you’re a follower of gossip. Because none of what you wrote is even remotely correct.

    Delta has wanted the max for a long time but couldn’t get the engine package to work with CFM. They were able to and they ordered it. Delta has for years had a split narrow body fleet. So it should register to you that they intend to continue that as they have said multiple times

  22. thank you, Opus.
    It should also be noted American Airlines for years was the largest Airbus operator in the world and just, based on the rate of new deliveries, Delta will overtake them.
    United has a large Airbus fleet which they bought before the Continental merger. UA finally recognized that they had to have the A321NEO which has become the best-selling commercial aircraft sub-model ever. The A321NEO is what Boeing wished the 757 had become;; the A321NEO is the global reference for a high capacity medium to long range narrowbody.

    The MAX is expected to replace older A320 family aircraft so DL will still have a mixed Airbus/Boeing narrowbody fleet.

    but a whole lot of people don’t grasp that aviation is a global business; engines and components are sourced from around the world. Anyone that thinks the 787 is a US plane clearly has no idea that large portions of it come from Europe and Japan. A220 and A320 family aircraft for US airlines are largely built in the US.

    When it gets to widebody aircraft, fleet commonality is much more important. AA and UA went with the B787 which came first but has had a long history of problems. Airbus developed the A350 after the B787 and the A350 is longer-range and larger. Unlike AA and UA which bought end of production line 777-300ERs, esp. when UA and DL had to ground their 747-400s, DL went w/ the larger new generation widebody (the A350). Buying the A350-1000 will simply give Delta back a high capacity twin but they have waited and will get (if they go ahead as expected), the most capable and most cost-efficient new generation in-service widebody twin.

    Delta has the right to not only overhaul the engines on every aircraft it has on order – including the MAX – but also to sell those services to other airlines. Part of the delay in ordering the A350-1000 has been Rolls-Royce’s unwillingness to give Delta engine overhaul rights on the engine that powers the -1000 even though DL has it on the -900. How that all plays out and what Airbus or Rolls gives Delta to win an order remains to be seen.

  23. also, Delta was a strong proponent of a new generation small widebody which Boeing has considered developing as a replacement for the 757 and 767 but Boeing has punted that project likely until 2035 or beyond.
    The A220 was originally Bombardier’s all-new narrowbody project and it is from them (a Canadian company) that Delta ordered the then-C Series. It was only because of Boeing’s attempts to kill the Bombardier sale to Delta that Bombardier sold the C Series program to Airbus.
    Bottom line is that Delta would have not only many more planes on order from Boeing but a smaller number from Boeing if Boeing had developed and delivered its own new technology aircraft

  24. What type of refreshments will be served on the day in the not too distant future when Boeing goes out of the commercial airliner business? Stupidity and stubbornness can’t keep all the predators away forever. I predict it will be generic soybean sausages and generic lemon-lime soda.

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