Delta remains the only US airline to have no orders for any 737 MAX variant. But after months of negotiations, could this be about to change?
Delta Air Lines has had an interesting relationship with Boeing over the past few years. The airline has an assortment of Boeing aircraft in its fleet. But the last time Delta placed an order with the American manufacturer was in 2011. It involved 100 737-900ER models, with deliveries starting in 2013. The airline picked up the last one of these in the summer of 2019.
Since then, the airline added more 737-900ERs to its fleet (59 so far), sourcing them in the second-hand market. Cheap aircraft leases during the pandemic certainly helped. These planes are as new as the 737s the airline bought from Boeing, so they will stay on for years. But some believe that Delta would have ordered the 737 MAX by now, were it not for the Boeing-Bombardier stand-off. We’ve covered this story HERE and HERE.
Earlier in the year, an order of the 737 MAX from Delta seemed imminent. The discussions were for the 737-10, i.e. the longest variant of these jets. Industry sources indicated that the deal would involve 100 aircraft. However, neither Boeing nor Delta have stated anything publicly, about the progress of these discussions.
Delta CEO: No 737 MAX Decision Yet
More recently, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said that the airline’s discussions with Boeing for a 737 MAX deal are still ongoing. However, the airline has not yet made any decisions. But it is monitoring developments around the aircraft – of which there are a few. Boeing needs to complete the certification process of this variant by the 20th of December. If it doesn’t, it risks having to modify it further, setting it apart from other variants.
Boeing has recently diverted a lot of engineering capacity to the certification of the 737-10 and 737-7. As a result, it had to draw resources away from the certification of its 777X. We should hear more on this topic over the next few weeks and months because Boeing will need to start 737-10 certification flights with the FAA.
Going back to Delta, the 737 MAX would help replace some of its older aircraft. The airline’s 757 fleet is getting rather old. Delta retired some 767-200s in the pandemic, along with many other, smaller aircraft (MD-88s, MD-90s, 737-700s). But since then, the airline has ordered a lot of A321neos. In successive orders, Delta ordered a total of 155 of these aircraft and has already begun taking deliveries.
Beyond the 737 MAX, Delta has suffered somewhat from Boeing’s cancellation of its next Midsize Airplane (NMA). This was the aircraft that the two companies relied on, to rebuild their frosty relationship, after the CS100/A220-100 drama. More importantly, Delta’s mid-size fleet plans reportedly relied on the NMA’s development. Boeing froze this program indefinitely after the 737 MAX groundings.