As the first Airbus A220s enter service in the United States, Delta Air Lines has begun the next stage of its largest ever fleet renewal.
Over the past decade the Atlanta-based carrier has recovered from near bankruptcy to become the industry leader in the United States.
Having rebuilt its balance sheet, Delta is now building for the future.
Over the next three years the carrier will take delivery of 222 planes, with a further 108 slated to arrive in the following years – some 330 in total.
Speaking to Breaking Travel News in London, Nadia Clinton, Delta country manager for the UK & Ireland, explained: “This is one of the biggest ever investments at Delta Air Lines and everything is designed to enhance the customer experience.
“This was always the plan, that Delta would renew its fleet at this stage, as well as retrofitting the existing aircraft we have.”
This year alone Delta will welcome 24 Airbus A220-100s – as the former Bombardier C Series project finally takes to the skies in the United States.
The new aircraft will initially be used on routes from New York LaGuardia to Dallas and Boston.
A year ago, the plane was mired in discussions over potential import duties.
The dust only settled following an Airbus’ decision to take over production of the aircraft and open a manufacturing facility in Mobile, Alabama.
“The launch of the Airbus A220 has been very exciting for us – the feedback has been great,” adds Clinton.
“The oversized bins on board are great for our passengers, as well as the larger windows, the ambient lighting and the configuration is a real bonus.
“The plane only has one middle seat, in a two and three configuration – and I think that will be a big part of its success.
“Although it is a narrow body aircraft, it feels larger and roomier for passengers.”
Delta will also welcome 32 Airbus A321-200, four Airbus A330-900neo, two Airbus A350-900, 18 Boeing B-737-900ER and seven Bombardier CRJ-900 jets to its fleet this year.
In total, 87 new planes will be welcomed, the largest number in the history of the carrier.
New planes have allowed for new cabin configurations – including the Delta One suite
The new arrivals mark a change of trajectory for Delta, which for years has sought to lower capital spending by purchasing used jets and retrofitting them.
This has allowed the company to reduce its adjusted net debt by billions of US dollars in recent years.
That, however, left Delta with an aging fleet of aircraft, with the average age of its planes surpassing 16 years before the current overhaul.
Old planes, of course, burn fuel less efficiently – and with fuel prices again creeping up, Delta is acting to cut costs.
First to go will be McDonnell Douglas MD-88 and MD-90s, of which Delta currently owns and operates more than 100, and the Boeing 717, of which there are currently 91 in service, though largely through leasing.
The Boeing 757, of which there again more than 100 currently in operation, will follow.
There is also a drive to retrofit existing planes in order to bring them up to newer standards, including the introduction of the Delta One business class cabin.
“The Boeing 777 is also going through a retrofit as we speak – which will come back refreshed to Charles de Gaulle in Paris and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol this summer,” adds Clinton.
“When it lands it will be fitted with the new Delta One business class suite and the Delta Premium Select product, our premium economy cabin, as well as Comfort+ and the main cabin – so it is a four product configuration.”
Delta currently operates 18 777-200s and plans to convert all of them in a new 296-seat configuration by the end of 2019.