MIAMI – Delta Air Lines (DL) has announced that it will cut its Boeing 717 fleet by a range of 50-67% due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

As a result, the current 91 aircraft in the 717 fleet will be reduced down to 30-45 over the space of the next few years.

This comes following news of the carrier making the decision to retire its Boeing 777 and McDonnell Douglas MD-90 aircraft.

According to Will Horton at Forbes, it is unclear whether these aircraft will be reactivated as part of Delta’s plans to keep the aircraft in service through to the end of this decade.

The 717 fleet reduction means that bases in New York and Minneapolis Saint-Paul holding the aircraft will close, with the Airbus A220 and A320 in the fleet due to replace New York operations and the A320 and the Boeing 737 due to do the same in Minneapolis.

Delta currently has 78 of the 91 717 on a lease, meaning that such retirement of that aircraft will be more expensive as new leasing contracts will need to be renegotiated.

The other 13, in that case, will be the most likely to go, as Delta owns them outright.

Front to back: 717, DC-9, MD88, MD90 on ramp at Technical Operations Center in Atlanta

Such aircraft are on lease with Boeing’s Capital Corporation, which has given a suggestion of speculation regarding the Boeing 737MAX.

Forbes reported in April that because of the leased aircraft being owned by Boeing, that a direct exchange could be made in return for a deal for 100 units of the MAX.

Boeing has done this before with China Eastern Airlines in which the Boeing wing purchased five Airbus A340-600 aircraft in return for China Eastern making a purchase for 20 777-300ER aircraft.

In the financial position of the MAX, it would encourage Boeing to make a trade given the mass exodus of orders cancelled in this year alone.

Net orders for Boeing in the first quarter of 2020 were recorded at a staggering -516 with individual MAX net orders being reduced to -314 at the end of March and increased further to -521 by April-end, including -281 in cancelations/conversions and -240 in accounting changes.

Overall, it remains clear that as Delta aims to reduce its cash burn of $100 million recorded at the end of the first quarter, the 717, like with the MD series and the 777, will give the carrier a breath it will need in a market where capacity has been reduced by 95%.