Delta facing delays on Airbus A321neo deliveries, just like American and JetBlue

Feb 14, 2020

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Delta Air Lines will receive far fewer Airbus A321neos this year than it expected, joining the long list of airlines facing months-long delivery delays of the new jet.

The Atlanta-based carrier anticipates the delivery of just one A321neo in 2020, its latest fleet plan released Thursday shows. Delta’s previous fleet plan a year ago forecast 16 A321neo deliveries this year.

Delta plans to introduce a new domestic first class seat on the A321neo. The seats will feature a memory foam cushion, increased privacy, extra storage and a larger tray table compared to the current offering.

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An Airbus A321neo takes off during the flight test program in 2018. (Image courtesy of Airbus)
An Airbus A321neo takes off during the flight test program in 2018. (Image courtesy of Airbus)


The delays facing A321neo deliveries are well documented. American Airlines took nearly a third fewer A321neos than it planned last year, and JetBlue Airways has been forced to lease used A321s to make up for its delivery shortfall.

The late deliveries are due to what lessor Air Lease CEO John Plueger has called an “industrial problem” at Airbus’ Hamburg facility. The issues include “complications from their very popular ACF Airbus Cabin Flex offering,” he said in October 2019.

American, Delta and JetBlue’s A321neos all feature the ACF cabin.

Air Lease is one of the single largest A321neo customers, with firm orders for 178 jets of which 38 had been delivered at the end of January, Airbus’ data shows. Air Lease is an industry giant, purchasing planes that it then leases to dozens of major carriers, including U.S. giants American, Delta and Southwest.

Related: JetBlue picks up used jets as Airbus A321neo delays mount

A Delta A321 (foreground) and MD-88 taking off from Atlanta airport (Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG)
A Delta A321 (foreground) and MD-88 taking off from Atlanta airport. (Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG)


Delta management did not highlight the delay during a fourth-quarter earnings call in January. Executives instead highlighted the airline’s continued replacement of older narrow-body jets, namely the McDonnell Douglas MD-88s and MD-90s, with newer, larger models in 2020.

“Aircraft deliveries, by their nature, are fluid but thanks to the experts who manage our fleet, schedule and operations, our customers can expect the same high level of predictability and consistency when they fly us,” said Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant, who added that the MD-88s will be retired this year.

The airline’s fleet plan does show more Airbus A220, A321 and A330-900 deliveries than previously planned. Delta will take five more A220-100s, four more A321s and three more A330neos — a total of 12 aircraft — than its February 2019 fleet plan shows. These could make up for the shortfall in A321neos depending on how fast it retires MD-88s and MD-90s.

In 2020, Delta plans to take delivery of 66 mainline aircraft: 17 A220-100s, six A220-300s, 31 A321s, one A321neo, seven A330-900s and four A350-900s. The plan includes two new variants for the airline, the A220-300 and A321neo, as well as its final A321 arrivals.

Related: Delta will introduce new first-class seats on Airbus A321neos

Featured image courtesy of Airbus.

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