Delta picks Airbus over Boeing for new jets

Staff writerSeptember 4, 2013 

Delta Air Lines Airbus A321


Delta Air Lines, which had ordered only Boeing planes for its fleet for 20 years, Wednesday ordered 40 new airliners from Boeing rival Airbus.

The airline stayed with tried-and-true designs, the Airbus A321 and the Airbus A330, instead of selecting new technology alternatives in each size range.

By selecting the existing designs, Delta likely took advantage of closeout savings on the aircraft it ordered.  The A321 is being succeeded by the A321neo, and the A330's new technology cousin is Airbus' A350.

At list prices, the 40 aircraft would cost Delta $5.6 billion, but the airline likely received a substantial discount.

While Delta itself hasn't ordered Airbus planes in recent years, the airline has 158 Airbus planes in its inventory.  It acquired those planes when it merged with Northwest Airlines.

Delta is also renewing its fleet with Boeing planes. It ordered 100 Boeing 737-900ER aircraft in 2011. The 737-900ER is a competitor to the Airbus A321.

Delta has been conservative about jumping aboard the new airplane technology bandwagon.

The Atlanta-based carrier has delayed delivery of 18 Boeing 787 Dreamliners Northwest had ordered from Boeing until 2020 through 2022.  The Dreamliner has encountered significant new airplane glitches. The first Dreamliner was more than three years late being delivered, and the Dreamliner fleet was grounded for nearly four months earlier this year because of problems with its lithium ion batteries overheating.

Delta has said it prefers to take delivery of new design aircraft after the manufacturers have worked out their teething issues.

One advantage of the new Airbus and Boeing designs that Delta is passing by for now is fuel efficiency.  The new planes are from 13 to 20 percent more fuel efficient than the existing lines of aircraft that Delta has ordered.

Delta's fuel-cost-savings strategy revolves around the airline's purchase of a former Phillips Petroleum Pennsylvania refinery and converting it to producing large amounts of jet fuel.



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