Delta Air Lines has set out plans to retire all of its Boeing 717s and 767-300ERs. The two types will exit the airlines’ fleet by December 2025. Alongside these aircraft, from its regional brand, Delta will be retiring all of its 50-seater Bombardier CRJ200s.
Delta will retire all of its 717s over the next five years. Photo: Getty Images
Retiring the aircraft
Delta Air Lines announced on September 25th that it would retire all Boeing 717-200s and all 767-300ERs by December 2025. Meanwhile, the CRJ200s will be retired by December 2023. Delta stated in an investor update that these plans are part of the airlines’ fleet simplification strategy.
The airline evaluated all of these aircraft, and, on September 23rd, the airlines’ team concluded the carrying value of these aircraft was no longer recoverable compared to their future cash flows from the jets. Essentially, Delta does not think they can turn a profit with these aircraft in the future.
The Boeing 717-200s
Delta Air Lines has 91 Boeing 717-200s in its fleet. At the end of the second quarter of 2020, the airline only owned 13 of these aircraft, meaning the rest were on lease. These planes have an average age of just under 19 years of age, making them a little old for short-haul workhorses.
Out of 91 jets, 88 of Delta’s 717s are on lease and are former AirTran aircraft. Photo: Getty Images
The Boeing 717s have 110 seats onboard with 12 in recliner-style first class, 20 in extra-legroom economy, and 78 in economy. These are, notably, the only jets in Delta’s mainline fleet that do not have seatback screens onboard.
Of 91 aircraft, 88 of Delta’s 717-200s came from Southwest Airlines starting in 2013. Southwest had just merged with AirTran Airways but did not want to add complexity to its fleet, so it sought a new place for the 717s. Those planes found a home in Delta’s fleet.
The Boeing 767-300ERs
Delta retired seven Boeing 767-300ERs in the second quarter, bringing its overall number of 767s in its fleet to 49 of the 767-300ERs and 21 of the 767-400ERs. Delta owns outright all of these aircraft with an average age of just under 25 years.
Delta already retired seven 767-300ERs last quarter, now the rest of the fleet will follow through 2025. Photo: Getty Images
The 767-300ERs come in two different configurations. One has 26 forward-facing lie-flat Delta One seats with 35 in extra-legroom economy, and 165 in standard economy. The other has 36 forward-facing lie-flat Delta One seats with 32 in extra-legroom economy, and 143 in standard economy. All of these aircraft have seatback entertainment.
These aircraft are one of Delta’s long-haul workhorses, flying transatlantic, transpacific, and some routes to South America, including between Atlanta and Bogota, where Simple Flying got to check out the aircraft.
Delta One on a Boeing 767-300ER. Photo: Jay Singh – Simple Flying
Delta does not fly the CRJ200s itself. Rather, those planes fly with regional carriers like Endeavor and SkyWest, which, combined, have 97 of the type in its fleet.
These jets seat 50 passengers in a 2-2 configuration. These aircraft operate a mix of short-haul and medium-haul operations, though they are not much of a passenger favorite.
The CRJ200s are not a passenger favorite but have helped keep smaller communities connected. Photo: Getty Images
What will replace these aircraft?
Delta does not have perfect one-to-one replacements for all of these jets. The CRJ200s will likely be replaced by other regional jets– a massive boon for passengers since those aircraft offer a true three-product experience. Whether any routes are cut because of this, however, is unclear. In some cases, Delta may choose to operate fewer frequencies with a larger aircraft, or else consolidate flights on a particular route.
Some cities could see upgraded service, though fewer times a day, onboard E175 aircraft. Photo: Delta Air Lines
As for the 717s, Delta does have 64 Airbus A220 aircraft on order, which would not make them a perfect one-to-one replacement. Counting the existing 31 in the fleet, Delta does have a good one-to-one plus a little extra for replacement. However, if Delta does decide it needs more, amending this order for a few extra planes would not be hard, though it would come at a cost at a time when Delta does not necessarily want to incur such an expense.
Delta Air Lines will operate a total of 95 A220s, and these planes are the right size to replace the 717s. Photo: Getty Images
Moving on to the 767-300ERs, this is a different story. There are 32 A330-900s left to come to Delta, but, even on a perfect one-to-one replacement, that leaves Delta 17 aircraft short. Without any other new aircraft orders, this means Delta will most probably need to cut some long-haul routes. Ones to Europe, especially, would be at risk since Delta has partners on which it can transfer passengers.
Delta has been betting on the A330neo, and more orders could be warranted to replace some of these routes. Photo: Airbus
A less ideal option would be for Delta to convert some of its A321neo orders to A321XLR orders. These aircraft, which rivals United and American have on order, could cover some seasonal routes such as to Berlin, Prague, Lisbon, and others. Though a bit of a downgrade compared to the 767, it would still allow Delta to provide at least some international service.
What do you make of Delta’s aircraft retirements? Will you miss any of these aircraft? Let us know in the comments!