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The US government shutdown is making air travel worse in many regards — from TSA sickouts causing hours-long security lines in some airports to closure of Global Entry offices. And now it looks like the shutdown is going to delay the US launch of the “most comfortable economy class you’ll find.”
In mid-October, Delta started selling tickets on its brand new Airbus A220 aircraft, with inaugural flights on multiple routes set for Jan. 31, 2019. While Delta received its first A220 in October — and TPG shared an exclusive tour of it in December — the aircraft still requires FAA certification to take to the skies with passengers.
Despite the shutdown, Delta has been positive so far in statements to TPG about the launch of the new aircraft type. Just last week, an airline spokesperson assured TPG that Delta “will work with the FAA to ensure that the A220 is fully certified when it enters our fleet. No customer disruption or impact to schedules are expected.”
However, with the shutdown continuing into day 25, Delta’s now changing its tune. In Delta’s earnings call on Tuesday morning, CEO Ed Bastian noted in his opening comments that the A220 “start date is likely to be pushed back.” He noted that seven Delta aircraft are pending FAA certification. According to AirFleets records, Delta currently has four A220s in its fleet. It’s unclear which other three aircraft are awaiting FAA certification.
In follow-up questions from analysts, Delta also detailed that the shutdown could also potentially impact the airline’s launch of the Airbus A330-900neo as it delays certification of components such as “new seats, crew rest and Wi-Fi systems.”
Specifically to the A220 launch delay, Bastian said that he’s “not expecting this to be an extended delay” and Delta doesn’t expect to cancel routes or flights due to the delay. Instead, the airline would operate regional jets and MD-88s and MD-90s on these routes instead of the A220.
Although the MD-88s and MD-90s have more capacity than the new A220s, Delta would need to add more flights or find alternative routes for passengers if it subs in its smaller regional jets for sold out A220 flights.
Read more about the Delta A220:
- I Toured Delta’s Brand New Airbus A220 — Here’s What to Expect
- Your First Look Inside Delta’s Brand New A220
- Here’s Our Look at Delta’s First Airbus A220-100, Fresh out of the Paint Shop
- Delta Confirms Its First A220 Destinations: Widebody Amenities on Narrowbody Routes
- Delta Buys More Airbus A220s, Even Before Flying the First One
Featured image by Darren Murph / The Points Guy
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