As demand for air travel hits an all-time low due to the pandemic, airlines are scrambling to determine the future of unused planes, particularly larger ones used for overseas routes. Delta Air Lines just announced that it intends to retire its fleet of Boeing 777s, preparing for an extended downturn in international travel. Retiring the 777 fleet is a move designed to eliminate its daily cash burn and stem some of the financial losses incurred by the pandemic’s devastating effect on travel.
In a staff memo, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said, “With international travel expected to return slowly, we’ve also made the difficult decision to permanently retire our Boeing 777 fleet — 18 aircraft — by the end of the year,” and replace them with more fuel-efficient A330s and A350-900 planes, made by Europe’s Airbus. Retiring a fleet as iconic as the 777 is not an easy decision — I know it has a direct impact on many of you who fly, crew and service these jets.”
In addition to retiring this class of airplane, the airline has attempted to reduce costs by cutting routes, shrinking payroll, and speeding up the retirement of other planes like the MD-88 and MD-90.
“Our principal financial goal for 2020 is to reduce our cash burn to zero by the end of the year,” said Bastian, “which will mean, for the next two to three years, a smaller network, fleet and operation in response to substantially reduced customer demand.”
Delta also expects to be overstaffed by more than 7,000 pilots, which seemingly signals the coming of unavoidable layoffs over the next several months.