Delta Boeing 777 200LR in flight_0
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said on Thursday that the airline would retire its fleet of 18 Boeing 777 wide-body jets by the end of this year.
In a memo to the airline’s employees, Bastian said that the decision came as the airline was striving to reduce cash burn amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. The full memo is embedded below.
While the airline previously announced plans to retire its older short-haul MD-88 and MD-90 fleets, the 777 retirement comes as airlines assume an increasingly dim outlook toward the return of international travel.
As international demand returns, the 777 will be replaced by newer Airbus A330 and A350-900 aircraft, Bastian said. The A350-900 burns 21% less fuel per seat than the 777, according to the airline.
“Retiring a fleet as iconic as the 777 is not an easy decision — I know it has a direct impact on many of you
who fly, crew and service these jets,” Bastain wrote in the memo. “The 777 has played an important role with Delta since 1999, allowing us to open new long-haul markets and grow our international network as we transformed into a global airline.”
“However, parking this fleet will provide significant cost savings over the next several years,” he added.
Delta operates two variants of the plane — the 777-200ER, and the 777-200LR.
The airline had recently completed a $100 million project to retrofit the entire 777 fleet with new cabin interiors, including the airline’s new business class suite and premium economy cabin.
File photo: Delta’s new Delta One business class suite on a 777
The 777 flew some of the airline’s longest and most premium routes, including New York to Mumbai, India; Los Angeles to Paris, France; Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia; Atlanta to Shanghai, China; Atlanta to Amsterdam, Netherlands; and the airline’s longest flight, Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa.
Airlines around the world have grounded large portions of their fleets and suspended routes to try and cut costs as travel restrictions, stay-at-home orders, and anxiety over the pandemic continue to drive travel demand to record lows.
Delta has temporarily grounded about 650 planes, but is still burning through $50 million each day while taking in very little revenue.
File photo: Economy seats with in-flight entertainment on a recently retrofitted Boeing 777.
American Airlines has announced early retirements for several types of aircraft from its fleet, including long-haul Airbus A330-200s, and Boeing 757 and 767 jets, a workhorse in the airline’s fleet until the collapse in travel demand.
According to a press release, Delta’s 777s have continued to see use through the pandemic in support of its cargo operation, and for select flights to repatriate US citizens stranded abroad due to the coronavirus.
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