Delta sets tentative date for first flight of larger Airbus A220-300

Sep 28, 2020

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Delta Air Lines is getting ready to introduce an all new jet to its fleet in just over six weeks, a welcome bit of good news amid the drum beat of aircraft retirements during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Atlanta-based carrier plans to debut its first Airbus A220-300s on Nov. 10, according to the latest update to Cirium schedules. The jet is a larger variant of the A220-100 that Delta already flies with room for 130 passengers, including 12 in first class, 30 Comfort Plus seats and 88 in economy.

Delta’s first A220-300 flight is tentatively scheduled as DL718 departing Salt Lake City (SLC) at 1:35 p.m. local time for Houston Bush Intercontinental (IAH) on Nov. 10, Cirium shows. A second flight, DL1058, is scheduled to depart the Utah capital at 5:55 p.m. for Austin (AUS) the same day, as is a return flight from Houston to Salt Lake City.

The flights were first reported by AirlineGeeks.

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“We look forward to welcoming the A220-300 into our fleet this November,” Delta spokesperson Drake Castañeda told TPG. He did not confirm the exact date or flight.

Flyers interested in getting on these initial A220-300 flights beware: these schedules are subject to change, often due to a myriad of factors outside of the airlines control. For example, the airline’s first A220-100 flight was postponed nearly two weeks because of a certification delay related to the government shutdown at the time that lasted until Jan. 25, 2019.

The news comes just days after Delta disclosed that it has moved forward plans to retire its Boeing 717s and 767-300ERs, as well as its Bombardier CRJ200s due to COVID-19. The 125 CRJ200s in the Delta Connection fleet will be gone by the end of 2023, and the 91 717s and 49 remaining 767-300ERs by end-2025.

The three types join Boeing 737-700s and 777s, as well as McDonnell Douglas MD-88s and MD-90s, among planes Delta is retiring because of the pandemic. The 737-700s left this month, MD-88s and MD-90s left in June and the 777s are due to fly their final scheduled flight in October.

Related: Why the new Airbus A220 is popular with airlines during the coronavirus pandemic

The end point of all these moves is a simpler fleet for Delta. Reducing the number of jet types it flies will save the airline money in everything from crew training to maintenance needs. Simplification can also improve operations for passengers, reducing the likelihood of a plane being swapped for another jet with a different seating layout.

On Sept. 17, J.P. Morgan analyst Jamie Baker wrote that Delta’s goal is to streamline its fleet around eight aircraft “families.” This means planes with common training and maintenance needs. The 737-800 and 737-900ER, as an example, are all part of one aircraft family though the interiors are different for flyers.

Delta had firm orders for 50 A220-300s as well as 14 more of the A220-100 at the end of August, according to Airbus orders and deliveries data. The carrier flew 31 of the smaller A220 — a number unchanged since the beginning of the crisis.

Related: Delta still flying all of its A220s even as the coronavirus grounds more than half its fleet

The A220 has proven its worth for Delta for the duration of the pandemic. It is the only type that the carrier has not put any in storage. Instead, Delta has flown its full cohort of A220s since air travel tanked in March.

“We have some planes that we’re going to start taking from Airbus again,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian told pilots during a virtual town hall on Sept. 22 viewed by TPG. He cited the recent arrival of two A350s and said more A220s and A321s were on their way before the end of 2020.

Related: Airbus rolls out first A220 assembled in Mobile

Updated with comment from Delta.

Featured image by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.




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