MIAMI — In what represents a significant blow to the American aircraft manufacturer, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, long-term partner Delta Air Lines has announced a blockbuster order for 100 Airbus A321neos ACF (Airbus Cabin Flex configuration) plus 100 options.
These planes are set to replace “less technically advanced aircraft,” according to the airline’s announcement earlier today.
Delta had been reportedly debating on whether placing an order for the Boeing 737 MAX or the Airbus A321neo. However, CNN’s Airline Analyst, Jon Ostrower, hinted yesterday that the Atlanta-based airline had already decided for the Airbus option. And today, this was confirmed.
To go with its A321neos jets, Delta has picked Pratt & Whitney to power the order. P&W is also manufacturer of the engine on the Bombardier C Series. https://t.co/yy8E0KQhcg
— Jon Ostrower (@jonostrower) December 13, 2017
According to Airbus CEO, Tom Enders, it was a “hotly-contested campaign.” Delta’s decision to go forward with the Airbus product might be tied to the airline’s satisfaction with its current A321ceos, of which it has ordered 117 planes so far.
Ostrower also analyzed that the A321neo not only seats more customers than the Boeing 737 MAX 10 but that there might have been a tilting influence over the current Bombardier CSeries dispute.
Deliveries for the new A321neos are set to begin in 2020 through 2023 and will be powered by Canadian-made Pratt & Whitney PW1133G-JM geared turbofan engines.
— Delta News Hub (@DeltaNewsHub) December 14, 2017
The new P&W GTF engines will deliver up to 12% fuel efficiency improvements on a per seat basis over the A321ceo, says the airline.
The new Airbus order is worth $25.4 billion at list prices, according to the manufacturer’s website.
According to John Leahy, retiring COO Customers at Airbus, most of these aircraft will be built at the manufacturer’s assembly line in Mobile, Alabama.
“This purchase furthers our commitment to U.S. aviation—a commitment that has never been stronger. Today, there is more U.S. content in Airbus aircraft than from any other country, with more than 40 percent of our aircraft-related procurement coming from the United States,” he said.
Delta, Boeing No More
More importantly, however, is the fact that this announcement reaffirms Delta’s decision to stay away from future Boeing commitments, following the decision by the U.S. Commerce Department to slap a nearly 300% tariff on Delta’s order for 75 Bombardier CSeries jets in favor of a Boeing complaint.
“This is the right transaction at the right time for our customers, our employees, and our shareholders,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian.
“This order for the state-of-the-art A321neo with Pratt’s Pure Power next-generation jet engines reflects our long-term commitment to these values for Delta people and all our constituents,” he said.
Bastian delivers these remarks as Airbus takes another dominant win over its competitor. This announcement not only represents a significant loss for Boeing; it also confirms that the Middle of the Market (MoM) segment is practically owned by Airbus and its new A321neo program.
Boeing’s reluctance to introduce a proper Boeing 757-200/300 replacement is now paying its toll. Both Delta and American Airlines—two major historical Boeing 757 operators—have officially decided to switch to the European manufacturer to replace the older, less fuel-efficient 757s with the new-engined A321neos.
Delta is already a key player for Airbus, operating a fleet of 196 Airbus aircraft, including 150 A320 family aircraft, 42 A330-200/300s, and four A350XWBs.
This new order increases Airbus’ market share in the region, especially now that the A321neos will be replacing older Boeing metal.
Since the A320neo family was launched in 2010, the manufacturer has captured 60% of the market share, putting the 737 MAX program behind. Since 2010, the A320neo family has received 5,300 orders from 96 different customers, versus 4,000 orders from 92 customers for the 737 MAX.
However, now that the Airbus final assembly line in Alabama has produced nearly 50 aircraft in its first two years, it shows promising signs that Airbus will be able to take on Boeing on the production front.
Airbus is currently producing four aircraft per month, expecting to increase up to 40-50 aircraft per year at Mobile.
Delta Supporting Canada
Concerning the Boeing vs. Bombardier spat, Ed Bastian responded, “I think my words are very clear, no, we will not pay the tariffs that are being discussed or debated.”
Boeing claims that the deal between Bombardier and Delta puts the future of the U.S. aerospace industry, and Boeing itself, at risk, and therefore, asked the U.S. Commerce Department to take action against the Canadian manufacturer for “price dumping.”
However, should the dispute continue, Delta might send its future fleet of 75 Bombardier CSeries to partner airlines Aeromexico, which has shown concrete interests in taking over the Canadian planes for its Central American expansion.
In the meantime, Delta seems to be on a path of supporting the Canadian Aerospace Industry by continuing its commitment to the Bombardier CSeries airplane and the Pratt & Whitney engines.
The carrier announced a long-term commitment to become a critical MRO provider through its large Delta TechOps division, for the P&W PW1100G and 1500G engines, which will power the A321neo and the CSeries aircraft.
“Pratt & Whitney’s commitment to complete over 5,000 engine repairs and overhauls at Delta TechOps is possible because of the high level of professionalism and quality MRO work the Delta TechOps team performs for the Delta fleet and to more than 150 additional airline and aviation customers based across the globe,” said Delta COO Gil West.
On a separate note, the Canadian government might cancel its order for 18 Boeing Super Hornet fighter planes as a retaliation against the American aircraft manufacturer. The Canadian Prime Minister might be looking to buy older F-18 Hornets that currently belong to the Australian Air Force at much lower prices.
The New Delta A321neos
Delta’s President, Glen Hauenstein, said that “the A321neos will be 40% more efficient than the MD-88s and 20% more efficient than the A321ceos.”
The airline claims that the new A321s will be replacing less efficient aircraft. The first candidates to leave the fleet are the ex-Northwest Airbus A319/A320s, the Boeing 757-200/300s, and the MD-90s. The smaller MD-88s will be replaced with the incoming CSeries aircraft.
The A321neo ACF introduces new features, such as a new door, larger bookshelf-style overhead bins, LED cabin lighting, and fuselage enhancements. The plane comes with a range of 4,600 miles—almost 1,000 miles more than the A321ceo.
The planes will come with 197 seats, including 20 in First Class, 30 in Delta Comfort+ and 147 in economy class.
Contrary to what competitor American Airlines is doing, every seat on the A321neo will come with on-demand in-flight entertainment. Delta is fitting every aircraft on its fleet with satellite-based 2Ku in-flight Wi-Fi, power ports, and streaming video capabilities, as well.
American, on the other hand, will remove all seat-back screens from its planes, introducing a more austere in-flight streaming system. The new product was launched on the airline’s Boeing 737 MAX 8 which performed its inaugural flight from Miami to New York La Guardia.
Delta’s Horizon is All Airbus
As things stand with the Boeing vs. Bombardier dispute, and Airbus purchasing a stake in the CSeries program, things are not looking well for Boeing.
The American manufacturer had hoped to clinch new wide-body orders from Delta, but the carrier preferred the competing Airbus A350XWB and A330neo instead.
Likewise, on the narrowbody front, Delta chose the Airbus A321neo as the new backbone of its narrowbody fleet, along with the Bombardier CSeries to replace the smaller, older MD-88s and 717s.
Once seen as the airline with the most diverse fleet in the continent, Delta will inevitably shift to a more streamlined Airbus fleet.
Current A319/A320/A321 pilots will have the possibility to upgrade to the wide-body fleet of A330-200/300 and now A350XWB and eventual A330neo.
And as the economics of the elder Boeing 767-300(ER)/-400 and 777-200/-200(ER)/-200(LR) begin to fall behind the newer Airbus jets, Delta might be heading into an all-Airbus direction. Clearly, with the exception of the brand-new 737-900(ER)s that the carrier has received in the last years.
Written in collaboration with James Field