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Delta Eyes Major Airbus Jet Order to Modernize Fleet

The Atlanta-based airline is expected to make an order for dozens of widebody jets at the upcoming Paris Air Show

by Lauren Smith

May 17, 2023

Delta Air Lines / Photo: Courtesy of Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines is reportedly in talks with Airbus about purchasing a substantial number of wide-body A330neo and A350 jets, hoping to capitalize on the post-pandemic boom in international travel and beat competition for delivery slots from rivals.

First reported by Bloomberg, the deal’s specifics haven’t been disclosed, but Delta is reportedly eyeing an order of dozens of Airbus twin-aisle A330neo and A350 jets. The new additions will refresh a long-haul fleet of aging A330 and Boeing 767 aircraft.

The U.S. carrier currently operates 66 Boeing 767s, including 45 767-300ERs, with an average age of 27 years, and 21 767-400ERs, with an average age of over 22 years. In addition, its long-haul fleet is rounded out by 63 A330s, just a third of which is the newer, fuel-efficient A330neo model, and the rest have an average age of 15 years.

Photo: Delta, Boeing 767-300ER. Courtesy of Delta Air Lines

These older models have higher operating costs and worse fuel economy than newer jets and premium cabins that competitors have long surpassed.

With newer planes, Delta hopes to capture pent-up demand for long-haul travel, which has already pushed pre-bookings of seats on its international flights to over 75 percent. Delta has increased seats on these international routes by 20 percent compared to last year and is operating its largest transatlantic schedule ever, according to airline president Glen Hauenstein.

“We are excited with the momentum we’re seeing and expect record revenues and profitability for the summer travel season,” he said.

The airline now wants to add even more flights. It’s already announced that it will increase the frequency of departures on specific European routes, including between Boston (BOS) and Dublin (DUB) and Atlanta (ATL) and Paris (CDG).

Photo: Delta Air Lines, Airbus A330-300 at Amsterdam Schiphol. Courtesy of Aron Marinelli / Unsplash

Additionally, Delta will extend its summertime Boston-Lisbon (LIS) to a year-round service and extend its new New York (JFK)-Geneva (GVA) flight, initially intended to be seasonal, through January.

Placing a large order with a manufacturer contradicts Delta’s usual strategy of picking up planes opportunistically, snapping them up secondhand, or waiting to catch a deal on new jets. However, the rush reveals the fierce competition for aircraft, with manufacturing still held up by post-pandemic labor shortages and supply chain bottlenecks. Last month, Airbus began notifying carriers waiting for deliveries of several hundred single-aisle A320neo jets during 2024 that they could be waiting an additional three months for the aircraft.

Photo: Delta, Airbus A350-900. Courtesy of Delta Air Lines.

Airlines are now inking deals with manufacturers to secure delivery slots, especially for highly sought-after twin-aisle jets.

Representatives for both Delta and Airbus declined to comment. However, according to unnamed sources who spoke to Bloomberg, the talks between the companies aren’t in advanced stages.

However, given the competition for jets, the deal will likely be reached next month before the Paris Air Show, the industry’s largest trade expo, and formally announced during the event.