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A Delta 777-200 departing from LAX (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ben Suskind)

Confirmed: Delta Plans Final Scheduled 777 Flight

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines will operate its final Boeing 777 flight on Oct. 31, the carrier confirmed to AirlineGeeks. After announcing earlier this year that it would retire all of its 777s by the end of 2020, the date is now official.

Two flights have been put on the schedule to cap off the aircraft’s career with Delta: a leg from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport on Oct. 30 and an Oct. 31 journey from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to Los Angeles. The two flights, which are publicly available for travel, have been given flight numbers DL8787 and DL8807, respectively, numbers suggestive of their abnormal operation.

The airline came into 2020 with 18 of the freshly refurbished aircraft in its fleet and with plans to retire them in the near future. But the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent slump in demand put a rush on that timeline, as the airline quickly realized it would be cheaper to retire them now than to store some and retire them just a few years down the road.

Delta announced the decision in a press release in May, saying the effort would “accelerate the airline’s strategy to simplify and modernize its fleet while continuing to operate newer, more cost-efficient aircraft.”

“We’re making strategic, cost-effective changes to our fleet to respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic while also ensuring Delta is well-positioned for the recovery on the backside of the crisis,” said Gil West, Delta’s Chief Operating Officer. “The 777 has been a reliable part of Delta’s success since it joined the fleet in 1999 and because of its unique operating characteristics, opened new non-stop, ultra-long-haul markets that only it could fly at that time.”

The airline only ever operated Boeing 777-200 aircraft, never investing in the revamped, larger and longer-range Boeing 777-300ER or the upcoming Boeing 777X variants. Instead, the Atlanta-based carrier has taken much of its long-haul business to Airbus in an effort to consolidate its fleet.

The Airbus A350-900 was tapped as the direct successor to the 777 at the airline, with Delta having received 15 of the aircraft over the past two-and-a-half years, and the Airbus A330-900 is also in the process of joining the airline’s fleet to fill in other operational gaps.

The airline is one among many to leverage the coronavirus pandemic’s resulting plummeting demand as an opportunity to speed up retirement efforts, with other U.S. legacy carriers in addition to airlines in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, alike, phasing out older aircraft to make way for newer ones slated to be delivered in the next few years.

British Airways retired its final Boeing 747 just this morning while KLM is rumored to be discussing early retirement for all of its Airbus A330s. Further still, Etihad’s CEO stated a week ago in a podcast that he expects to see Airbus A380s all over the world retired sooner than planned, leaving the future of the superjumbo jet at the airline almost certainly in jeopardy.

Last month, Delta quietly retired its 737-700 fleet after 12 years of service with the carrier, just months after the final Delta MD-88/90 flight.

Parker Davis
Parker Davis
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