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A Delta A350 in Atlanta (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Delta Embraces New Widebody Aircraft Despite Global Pandemic

It may seem as though there is not much to celebrate about within the aviation industry as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the airlines. Despite many airlines resuming flights and even inaugurating some unique routes, especially within the U.S., travel demand levels prior to the global pandemic will not come back for a while. However, at Delta, the airline is taking every opportunity it can to look beyond that.

The Atlanta-based carrier has taken delivery of two brand new Airbus A350-900 XWBs from Airbus’s factory in Toulouse, France. While these are the carrier’s first widebody deliveries since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the delivery flights are presumed not to be flying directly to the U.S., due to the 15% tariff imposed on importing Airbus aircraft by the Trump Administration, according to Airways Magazine. 

Despite the tariff, the two aircraft have been delivered to two of the carrier’s major international hubs, Amsterdam and Tokyo. Delta’s decision to receive two brand new widebody aircraft comes after its decision to retire its entire Boeing 777 fleet. Its last 777 flight was a domestic flight between Atlanta and Los Angeles on Sept. 5, and that decision will play a pivotal role in sustaining its long-haul flight operations. 

United Expects Aircraft Deliveries

In addition, as Delta receives the two brand new A350-900s, which has become one of the major workhorses in its long-haul operations, this will also allow the prominent SkyTeam Alliance carrier to compete against one of its major U.S. airline rivals, United, a major founder of the Star Alliance. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, United has cut the number of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft it was planning to receive through 2021 in half to 40 aircraft, according to Business Insider. However, the Chicago-based carrier is expected to take delivery of eight Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and eight larger Boeing 787-10s in 2021, which were already in production when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Those deliveries are going to supplement the airline’s long-haul fleet in a similar way to Delta’s A350s, taking the place of phased-out older aircraft.

The major Star Alliance member had initially decided to only take new aircraft deliveries when financing is available and announced in late-July its postponement of deliveries until as early as 2022.  In the meantime, United has primarily put its focus on starting a new route strategy within the U.S. while strengthening its global network with new routes.

Meanwhile, whilst Delta received a new wide-body aircraft for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the question still lingers as to how competitive the major SkyTeam carrier will be on its long-haul route network against its major rivals, once more widebody aircraft are delivered.

Benjamin Pham
Benjamin Pham
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