Delta Air Lines has placed a firm order with Airbus for 25 A350-900s and 25 A330-900neos, the airline and manufacturer confirmed Thursday. Worth some $13 billion at list prices, the deal comes as a major blow to rival Boeing, which offered its 777 and 787-9 in a competition to replace Delta’s 747-400ERs and 767-300ERs.
“When the most successful U.S. airline today—a company that has flown passengers around the world for more than eighty years, has 80,000 employees and 165 million customers in a year—says, ‘yes, we want fifty more of your widebody planes,’ you can’t debate the fact that it is a massive endorsement of your product line,” said Airbus COO for customers John Leahy.
In its own statement, Boeing suggested the decision reflected practical considerations on Delta's part rather than an outright endorsement of one product over the other. "This was a long and highly competitive campaign," it said. "Boeing competed for the order with the 787-9, but we did not have enough 787 positions available in the timeframe that met Delta’s requirement."
Delta now flies 57 A319s and 69 A320s, along with 11 A330-200s and 21 A330-300s. It also awaits delivery of 10 more A330-300s and 45 A321s, bringing its total Airbus backlog to 105 aircraft.
Delta has said it plans to accelerate the retirement of its 747-400 fleet, shedding the last of its remaining 14 jumbo jets by 2017, while it “optimizes” its transpacific network with the current-generation A330s now on order. It said it plans to begin deploying its A350-900s in the second quarter of 2017 mainly on long-range routes between the U.S. and Asia.
Delta’s plans for the A330-900neos call for that type’s first deployment in 2019, by which time the airline expects to start retiring Boeing 767-300ERs. The neos will primarily fly medium-haul transatlantic routes, along with “select” routes between the U.S. West Coast and Asia, it added.