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Analysis: Where Could Delta Fly Its A350-1000s

The higher-capacity aircraft will arrive in 2026 and potentially allow Delta to grow its network.

A rendering of Delta’s A350-1000 (Photo: Delta)

Delta Air Lines recently announced an order for 20 A350-1000s with options for 20 more. Although the first jet won’t arrive until 2026, interest surrounding the jet is high, and many wonder where the aircraft will fly.

First, why did Delta order the A350-1000?

To speculate where the jet will fly, the motivations behind the order need to be understood. The main possible reasons are:

  1. A larger gauge aircraft with more premium capacity and likely lower costs
  2. For constrained airports and markets, especially in Europe, where additional frequencies will become increasingly more difficult to come by under environmental pressures.

Delta competitor, American Airlines, has 60 seats in First and Business on its 777-300ER, and its new premium-heavy 787-9s will have 51 business class seats. Delta’s most premium widebody has just over 30 seats in the business class cabin.

Delta’s business class product, Delta One. (Photo: Delta)

There is a clear contrast here with Delta offering significantly fewer premium seats. Coming into 2024, premium cabins are the money earners. In 2023, the demand for business class was strong despite traditional business travel not having returned 100%, according to Forbes.

With one of the largest loyalty programs and based out of some of the wealthiest cities (New York, Boston, Los Angeles, etc.), Delta is well-positioned to offer more capacity and quality. Already, it is expanding its A350-900 Delta One cabin from 32 seats to 40. It is also building new lounges and establishing new partnerships with American Express.

A rendering of the restaurant area at Delta’s new JFKk premium lounge (Photo: Delta Air Lines)

Therefore, one can expect Delta’s A350-1000 to have a higher number of business class seats, or be premium-heavy, in other words.

Possible Destinations

Although nothing has been announced by the airline as of yet, a few potential routes would likely be well-suited for the A350-1000.

Asia-Pacific

Delta has always focused on East Asia, and these routes are suited for larger aircraft as they cover longer distances often with more connecting traffic. The international travel demand in the region is returning slowly. Still, Delta will be a strong player in the region as the recovery curve continues, building on partnerships with Korean Air and China Eastern.

These markets could include Shanghai Pudong, Seoul Incheon, or Tokyo Haneda.

The market between North America and Oceania is strong and booming. The A350-1000 could be an ideal aircraft for Delta to provide more capacity and capture a larger market share with routes to Sydney or even Melbourne, which is not currently served by the carrier.

Delta is the only airline out of the big three U.S. carriers without a flight to India. The U.S. and India market is massive. However, Delta lacks a partner in the region, whereas United is partnered with Air India and Emirates while American is with Qatar Airways. Mumbai and New Delhi are possible candidates.

Europe

Some routes to Europe could benefit from a larger airplane, especially since both major Delta operations in Europe, Schiphol and Paris, are facing capacity constraints. With Delta’s reliance on these airports, one solution could be using larger aircraft to accommodate growth and offset reduction in frequency.

Leisure routes to Europe are also performing well for Delta, mainly on a seasonal basis. These connections also see strong premium class demand as the trend of ‘leisure business’ grows. Destinations such as Athens and Rome are possible candidates during the peak summer season.

Africa

Flights between the U.S. and South Africa have generally performed well, and the airline can use a bigger aircraft to perhaps achieve better margins. These destinations could include both Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The market can always change in the next two years, and only time will tell where Delta will fly the new A350-100s.

Anthony Bang An

Author

  • Anthony Bang An

    Anthony is an airline enthusiast who also loves traveling. He grew up around the world from St. Louis to Singapore and now lives in Amsterdam. He loves long-haul flying and finds peace in the sound of engine cruising. Fresh out of high school, he aspires to be working in the aviation industry and share his passion for the sky. 

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