ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines (DL) will soon take delivery of two brand-new Airbus A350-900 aircraft from Airbus in Toulouse-Blagnac (TLS), France. The aircraft, N514DN, and N515DN are scheduled to depart TLS on September 16 for Tokyo-Narita (NRT) and Amsterdam (AMS), respectively.
The two A350 are the first wide-body planes to be delivered to the Atlanta-based carrier since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted at the beginning of the year.
The A350 Aircraft in Detail
One of the new Airbus A350, N514DN, conducted its first flight on March 5 of this year and was scheduled to be delivered in the Spring. The other A350, N515DN, flew for the first time in late June. Airbus typically delivers A350s within several weeks of an aircraft’s first flight.
While conducting several additional test flights since their firsts, the two A350 joined a growing backlog of undelivered aircraft in various stages of storage in Toulouse. It is believed the two A350 will not be flying directly to the United States on their delivery flights to avoid the 15% tariffs imposed on Airbus aircraft by the Trump administration.
Aircraft assembled by Airbus Americas in Mobile, Alabama are not subject to such tariffs, however. Just two weeks ago Delta took delivery of two Airbus A321s from Mobile—the first new aircraft taken by the carrier since March.
Among the stored aircraft in TLS are several wide-body A330-900 destined for DL.
The new planes are the first A350 to join Delta’s fleet since February of 2019. They are also the first A350 to join DL since the carrier assumed and subsequently terminated an agreement to acquire four used A350s from partner LATAM Airlines.
As part of LATAM’s bankruptcy reorganization, DL agreed to pay $62 million to cancel to purchase agreement. The carrier continues to hold onto a purchase agreement for 10 A350 from LATAM with deliveries through 2025.
In the era of travel restrictions and socially distant seating, DL’s A350 have developed a new and wider role within the carrier’s fleet. Previously dedicated almost exclusively to trans-Pacific operations, DL has been operating several daily trans-Atlantic flights with its small A350 fleet in recent months.
Routes for the A350
Routes traditionally flown by the A330 such as ATL-AMS and ATL-CDG are now flown by the A350. Reduced fuel burn, greater cargo capacity, and more available seats as contributing factors to the change. DL continues to operate with a self-imposed capacity restriction as part of their efforts to combat COVID-19.
The new deliveries come as DL continues to have nearly 300 aircraft in various forms of storage. These aircraft include half of the A330 and 2/3 of the Boeing 767.
As part of their effort to rightsize amid the Coronavirus, the airline has already announced plans to retire seven Boeing 767-300 and its entire Boeing 777 fleet.
Delta Air Lines A350. Photo: Airbus.