Delta Looking To Buy 20 Airbus A350-1000 Widebodies

Delta Air Lines is considering an order for 20 Airbus A350-1000s, the largest aircraft that Airbus is currently producing, according to aviation watchdog JonNYC.

Airbus cancelled an order from Qatar Airways for 19 Airbus A350-1000s, after a messy row between the airline and planemaker over deteriorating paint on the Doha-based carrier’s A350s. Such an order by Delta would largely replace the Qatar Airways order, and the aircraft manufacturer could be shopping those planes cheaply. Delta is known as a bottom-feeder, or as a tough negotiator with all counterparties (in a 50-50 deal, Delta takes the hyphen).

Though Delta recently placed an order for Boeing 737 MAXs, the airline mostly buys Airbus and currently operates about 60 Airbus A330 and two dozen A350-900 widebodies, with another 20 of each on order.

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. A total of about 65 A350-1000 aircraft have been delivered out of a total of 150 ordered to date.

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. Potential low acquisition cost may be the best explanation for Delta’s reported interest.

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, 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. Maybe Delta will just start buying up gently used A350s from other airlines, as they did with LATAM. Delta received billions in subsidies from Uncle Sam. The airline should be buying the Boeing 787. That aside, Delta’s decision to ground its 777s and even 747s seems incredibly shortsighted. I don’t like the Delta A350, not least because the number of lavatories per passenger is significantly less than the 747 and 777 that it replaced.

  2. I avoid Delta completely these days. Their award tickets are way overpriced, and their cash tickets are even worse. And now, after taking billions in taxpayer cash, they refuse to buy American made jets. Delta can burn in hell as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Remember when Delta had orders for 787s from the NW merger, then decided to weasel their way out of those orders?
    Pepperidge Farm remembers!

  4. The just ordered a bunch of 737’s so quit looking for reasons to keep whining. Some folks really aren’t happy unless they’re unhappy.

  5. @Gary do you know why AA nixed the deal on the 350’s they had originally ordered?….seems to be a good aircraft from what I’ve read.

  6. Several DL employees writing anonymously on various online forums say that Delta has asked the board to approve this purchase which means it could be announced with their 3rd quarter earnings which should be announced in the next 2 weeks – perhaps as soon as next week.
    Since Qatar walked away from some of the aircraft and Airbus terminated the remainder of the order, they likely will forfeit the pre-delivery payments which might mean that Airbus can price the aircraft low and Delta always love a deal when it goes airplane shopping.
    The A350-1000s that have already been built for QR have their Q suite product on them and presumably Delta can use those seats until it retrofits the aircraft with its own standard interior. DL is reportedly working on a new business class product and including putting a larger business class cabin on its current A350-900s – not to the size that AA and UA are doing but a larger business class cabin and fewer total seats overall.
    The A350-1000 has longer range than the -900 so the planes will very likely be primarily used on the Pacific other than when transatlantic flights can be “squeezed” between Pacific flights -as often happens with DTW-AMS.
    Pre-covid, DL’s ATL and DTW to Tokyo and Seoul flights were its highest revenue per flight. They were also operated by 747-400s before those planes were retired.
    Delta’s international fleet is already the most fuel efficient of the big 3 US carriers in part because DL got rid of its 777s during the pandemic. Their execs are telling employees that DL will have 15 more widebodies by 2024 than they had pre-covid.

    Raymond James just today notes that DL and UA are benefitting from a stronger return in international traffic and because of domestic business traffic in the NE US.

    An even larger more efficient international fleet will provide Delta will plenty of opportunities to grow in the next 3-5 years.

  7. @FNT_Delta-Diamond you do realize that 30%+ of materials on a Boeing airplane are outsourced from non-US suppliers. Despite your implication that DL should only buy from a US plane builder because they received US subsidies, the planes are not truly “made in America.”

    You also may not know that Airbus employs over 3,200 people in the US and has two assembly plants here. Oh, and you may not understand that if US carriers were forced to buy Boeing, other countries would retaliate, Boeing would lose business and the whole thing would be for naught. And, when you stifle competition by forcing companies to do business only with companies in based in your county you are walking away from capitalism and embracing economic nationalism which undermines our geopolitical power and increases the cost of doing business by disincentivizing companies like Boeing to negotiate on price.

    But you do you.

  8. @Alan: Delta wants 600,000 miles for Delta One to London in the middle of winter. That’s just absurd. A couple years ago, it was well under 200,000 miles.

  9. DL is not the airline it once was. Their international fleet is old 767 and A330 and trying to replace them with A330NEO and A350 is a sizing mistake. They have not good point to point narrow bodies in the pipeline, waiting on Boeing 7575/767 replacement has put them behind AA and UA with will have the A321XLR in a few years. Domestically the 757 and old A320’s suck, they have less legroom then even Oasis craft and I HATE IFE screen that are small, broken, sticky and take up leg space. They are starting to fall behind AA, domestically for sure, in the Americas for sure and while they have Atlantic strength, VA is not match for BA as a partner and you can keep AF. Needless to say, declining inflight service and always looking for a fleet bargain are starting to impact the image of DL, the higher prices they charge and a crappy loyalty program shows they are not worth it.

  10. say what?
    How does the size of the IFE screen impact your legroom?
    DL’s latest technology IFE system uses Wifi, not boxes under the seats.
    and let’s not forget that the A321XLR is not approved either. Stuffing jet fuel in every corner of the fuselage has significant safety implications.
    Delta has more than 300 new generation narrowbody aircraft on order. They will be just fine.
    It is actually airlines that will have massive fleets of 777s for years to come that are at a high risk of becoming so uncompetitive on costs.

  11. Flown on the 350,777and 747 a lot. 350 is quieter and has a much lower cabin preasure. Makes a huge difference when your on a 8 + hour flight.

  12. Alan, many will disagree with you, including myself. I love Delta, they are a great airline and just so happen to place at the top of the list on airline quality surveys. Personally I only fly them unless I have no other choice. I like United but totally cannot stand American. To each his own but seriously doubt your opinions will adversely affect that continued success. They are shrewd negotiators when it comes to replacing their fleet, which they are doing. You want them to buy US made aircraft. They do but look at the issues Boeing has had with their newer aircraft – 737 Max, 787 etc. The problem is Boeing does not have a reliable replacement for their 757/767 and Airbus has better options.

  13. All you idiots that have a issue with Delta then go fly American Airlines . Nobody cares.
    I’m thinking of all those 787’s that were grounded for over a year because their cheap labor couldn’t build them correctly

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