Delta to retire 777s this year; inevitable given small scale, age, & fuel-efficient replacement

Delta to retire 777s this year; inevitable given small scale, age, & fuel-efficient replacement

Delta is to retire its 777s by the end of this year, an inevitable decision despite their recent retrofitting.

Delta is to retire its B777s by the end of this year.  It has 18 B777s, comprising both eight -200ERs and ten -200LRs.

This comes less than two weeks after it announced it will retire its MD-88s and MD-90s on 2 June

The impact of coronavirus offers the ‘perfect’ opportunity for Delta – and many others – to streamline its fleet around aircraft with stronger fuel-efficiency and scale. It offers the chance to optimise its fleet for when demand starts to increase.

Inevitable that its 777s would go next

Delta’s small number of B777s, with an average age of almost 16 years and seven over 20 years, makes little sense going forward, especially given the carrier’s large size.

Delta retrofitted its 777s in the past couple of years and added Delta One, which suggested they would be operational for some years – in normal circumstances.  But times are not normal.

It was inevitable that it would prioritise the retirement of its 777s for the following reasons:

  • The low number of them, especially as they are standalone
  • They will not receive more
  • Their relatively old age
  • Depressed international demand for sometime
  • A fuel-efficient and similar-sized replacement – the A350-900 – which Delta says has a 21% lower fuel burn per seat, plus also the A330-900 if needed
  • Delta’s April deal with LATAM to take 10 more A350s

There are some questions over the range and performance of its A350-900s on the 13,581-kilometre Johannesburg – Atlanta sector, especially given Johannesburg’s hot-and-high conditions.  And, to a lesser degree, the 12,551-kilometre Mumbai – New York JFK.

Delta to retire 777s this year; inevitable given small scale, age, & fuel-efficient replacement

Delta’s 777 network in February 2020, so before coronavirus.

Globally, 777s had over 272 million seats last year

Last year, all 777s globally – including -300s and -300ERs – had 272.6 million seats (non-stop and one+ stops combined).

B777-200s – of all series – had 70.2 million seats, for a 26% share, down from 41% in 2010. 

The 777 programme revolves, of course, around -300ERs, given strong economics – if such a payload is needed. 

B777-300ERs had a 57.3% share of 777 seats last year: they grew from 48.5 million in 2010 to 156 million.

Delta to retire 777s this year; inevitable given small scale, age, & fuel-efficient replacement

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.

Delta was the 11th largest user of all -200s last year

Delta has never been a big 777 operator. 

Last year, it had 2.1 million seats by them, meaning a 0.79% share of total 777 seats and 2.9% of all -200 variants.

However, because of relatively few -200LRs operators, Delta had a 10.8% share of its worldwide seats.  It was behind Ethiopian Airlines (because of one-stops) and Emirates, by far the world’s leading 777 operator.

In 2019, Delta was the world’s eleventh-largest user of -200s. 

Not surprisingly, two Japanese carriers – All Nippon and Japan Airlines – were by far the leading operators of them by seats. These operators use both non-ER and -ER variants.

Their seat volume is the result of their strong use domestically: all of All Nippon’s -200 seats were within Japan last year, and 78% for JAL. This does, of course, mean their lead reduces when ASKs are considered.

Top-10 777-200s/LRs/ERs operators in 2019 Top-10 777-300/ER operators in 2019
Airline Seats Airline Seats
All Nippon 13.8 million Emirates 45.2 million
Japan Airlines 9.9 million Cathay Pacific 15.3 million
American Airlines 6.5 million Qatar Airways 13.9 million
Air France 4.6 million Turkish Airlines 8.9 million
KLM 3.9 million Air France 8.3 million
Korean Air 3.4 million All Nippon 7.6 million
Ethiopian Airlines 2.7 million EVA Air 7.3 million
Jin Air 2.4 million Singapore Airlines 7.3 million
Emirates 2.3 million Air China 6.9 million
NokScoot 2.1 million Korean Air 6.5 million
Source: OAG Schedules Analyser



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