Delta Air Lines will accelerate its A330neo fleet growth through the first half of 2021. The carrier announced this week plans for two additional aircraft to join the fleet via lessor Air Lease Corporation, as well as a shift in delivery timings for its existing order book. As a result the company now expects seven A330-900 deliveries in 2020, plus two more in Q1 2021.
These two incremental aircraft represent an opportunistic play to fulfill our near-term widebody aircraft needs for our customers and employees as older generation aircraft are retired and to support measured growth in 2021. We’re also pleased that the engines on these aircraft will be maintained by Delta TechOps professionals through our partnership with Rolls-Royce.– Greg May, SVP – Fleet and Technical Procurement
Delta currently operates four A330-900 aircraft with firm orders for 31 additional frames. The two leased aircraft add to that total. Delta also agreed to acquire four additional A350-900s from LATAM and 10 future purchase commitments, increasing its overall wide-body plans notably through the middle of the next decade. That the carrier is talking about using the A330-900 as a replacement for older aircraft should not come as much of a surprise, though it does raise some questions about just how willing the company is to wait for Boeing‘s theoretical NMA clean-sheet design given the timelines in play. That won’t be available until late in the decade at the earliest based on current consensus, and Delta will need to start replacing its 757, 767, and 777-200ER frames not too long from now. And the company will retain flexibility in terms of when to retire the aging aircraft, depending on economic factors and growth demand.
Also significant to this deal is the ability for Delta to increase its in-house engine maintenance operations with the TechOps team taking on service for the new planes. This is not the first deal Delta announced with that component included; the 2017 A321neo order also includes a significant P&W engine support agreement.
And the A330neo features the Delta Flight Products home-grown wireless embedded IFE solution as well. Again, the company dipping into its internal portfolio to strengthen and diversify the overall value of the deal. Assume Gogo 2Ku satellite connectivity on board as well, as Delta’s shown no signs of diversifying that vendor situation.
Add in that the new planes should reduce emissions and generally deliver a comfortable, reliable ride for passengers and this transaction appears strong on every front.