Delta Air Lines Inc. plans to retire its 777 jumbo jets made by Boeing Co. and replace them with Airbus SE aircraft in another hit for the beleaguered U.S. planemaker.
Delta’s 18 Boeing 777s will end service by the end of the year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the airline said Thursday.
“The retirement will accelerate the airline’s strategy to simplify and modernize its fleet, while continuing to operate newer, more cost-efficient aircraft,” Delta said.
Delta will continue flying its fleet of long-haul, next-generation Airbus AIR, A350-900s, which burn 21% less fuel per seat than the 777s they will replace, the airline said.
Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The planemaker, still reeling from the worldwide grounding of its 737 Max aircraft, has struggled amid the pandemic as travel ground to a halt and its airline customers delay or forgo plane orders.
Boeing launched its 777 program in 1990, with the first deliveries being made in the mid-1990s.
Delta was one of a few airlines to work with Boeing to develop the twin-jet, wide-body aircraft, which cleared new possibilities for non-stop, long-haul flights. Delta flew the planes from Atlanta to Johannesburg, from Los Angeles to Sydney, and other distant destinations.
The airline last month announced plans to accelerate the retirement of the MD-88 and MD-90 fleets to June.
Like its peers around the world, Delta has responded to the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus by cutting capacity and costs, furloughing employees, and parking aircraft and considering early aircraft retirements to reduce its operational complexity and cost.
Delta said Thursday it has parked more than 650 mainline and regional aircraft to match the decimated demand.
Despite the reduction in international passenger air travel, Delta’s 777 fleet had been busy.
Since late April, the “workhorse” plane “has flown dozens of trips from Chicago and Los Angeles to Frankfurt to deliver mail to U.S. military troops abroad; operated between the U.S. and Asia to deliver thousands of pounds of critical, life-saving supplies to aid in the COVID-19 response; and carried thousands of U.S. citizens back to the U.S. from Sydney, Mumbai, Manila and other cities around the world,” the company said.
Delta said more details on the timing of the 777’s exit from the fleet will be disclosed at a later date.
The airline and other U.S. peers are receiving a government bailout. The recovery for airlines is expected to be slow, and in recent trading sessions airline stocks, including Delta’s, hit new lows.
So far this year, Delta shares have lost 68%, and Boeing shares are down 64%. That compares with losses of 13% and 19% for the S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones Industrial in the same period.