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WSJ Article On Delta  
User currently offlineMountainFlyer From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 476 posts, RR: 0
Posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 1927 times:

In light of recent threads discussing both the old aircraft strategy at DL as well as wondering what DL has done right I found this very informative WSJ article. A lot of it contains information we have already talked about, but it's a clear, concise article with a lot of good information for those curious minds such as my own.

Fair use quote:

Quote:
The nation's second biggest carrier stunned the industry by becoming the first airline to buy an oil refinery, in a bid to trim its highest and most volatile operating cost, aviation fuel. It runs a huge maintenance subsidiary that tends to its own planes and does third-party work, while other airlines have scaled down or bailed out of that business. And the Atlanta company has retained its status as the only major U.S. airline that is mostly nonunionized, giving it more flexibility than its rivals even as it pays most workers more.
Delta Flies New Route to Profits: Older Jets

[Edited 2012-11-17 18:20:08 by SA7700]


SA-227; B1900; Q200; Q400; CRJ-2,7,9; 717; 727-2; 737-3,4,5,7,8,9; 747-2; 757-2,3; 767-3,4; MD-90; A319, 320; DC-9; DC-1
39 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently onlineStitch From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 30889 posts, RR: 87
Reply 1, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 1942 times:
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Honestly, as a short-term (10 years or less) program, it's probably a fair idea.

The vast majority of passengers don't know how old an airframe is and if it has a new interior, they'll perceive it as being "new". And for frequent fliers, adding older planes with brand new interiors and new amenities (like WiFi) is likely seen in a positive light.

As the article notes, fuel and maintenance prices can become crippling with older planes, which is why I see this as a short-term trick to allow DL to add capacity without significant capital expenditures that could also crush them if traffic collapses.


User currently offlinepanamair From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 4895 posts, RR: 25
Reply 2, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 1943 times:
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Quoting Stitch (Reply 3):
that could also crush them if traffic collapses.

ah, but because these planes have low acquisition costs, they can afford to outright purchase and own many of them, which means they can easily park them when traffic collapses. You don't have that luxury when you have many brand spanking new expensive planes which you have leased....the lease payments will have to continue even if you can't fill those planes....We have already seen this with the DC9s...because they owned many of them, they simply parked them when they had to cut capacity due to the oil spike in recent years...


User currently offlineMountainFlyer From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 476 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 1938 times:

Maybe I'm looking at this too simplistically, but theoretically, even if DL realized $0 salvage value on these older planes (thinking mainly of the MD-90's and 717's), they are acquiring them so cheap relative to brand new aircraft that they would still come out way ahead compared to the depreciated value of a new aircraft sold on the used market. Yes, at some point maintenance and fuel will catch up with that, but it would have to be a huge increase in costs, mostly maintenance, since these are not exactly "inefficient" aircraft. Am I missing something?

In an exaggerated analogy, to me it's a lot like buying a $2,000 used car that needs maintenance, but works. Even if you put $3,000 of maintenance into it and it only gets 20 mpg, you're still coming out way ahead of just depreciation of a brand new compact car over say two years, not to mention the lower insurance and registration costs.

At any rate we've discussed the capex strategy a lot, but getting back to the article, it singles out the DL aircraft strategy especially, but I thought it pointed out a lot of how DL differs from its peers not in just asset management but other strategies as well. It will be interesting to see how these unique strategies all play out. DL is playing with a lot of variables at once; capex strategy, oil refinery strategy, maintenance strategy. Some have been tried before (NW did the old aircraft thing), some not (oil refinery).



SA-227; B1900; Q200; Q400; CRJ-2,7,9; 717; 727-2; 737-3,4,5,7,8,9; 747-2; 757-2,3; 767-3,4; MD-90; A319, 320; DC-9; DC-1
User currently onlineStitch From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 30889 posts, RR: 87
Reply 4, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 1937 times:
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Quoting panamair (Reply 4):

Which is what I meant.  

I should have phrased it as "DL to add capacity without significant capital expenditures (as said capital expenditures for new aircraft could also crush them if traffic collapses).


User currently offlineavek00 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 4368 posts, RR: 19
Reply 5, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 1935 times:

The comedic irony in all of this is that Northwest employed this as one of its primary business strategies, and the airline was basically forced to merge itself off post haste in 2008 because the strategy backfired bigtime, leaving Northwest with massive fleet replacement needs more-or-less all at once in an environment of high fuel costs and tight credit.


Live life to the fullest.
User currently offlineyellowtail From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 6092 posts, RR: 2
Reply 6, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 1936 times:

this hails back to the good ole days of American industry, when you tried to own every part of the industry....a business style that made Rockerfeller and Morgan famous.


When in doubt, hold on to your altitude. No-one has ever collided with the sky.
User currently offlineB757forever From United States of America, joined May 2010, 400 posts, RR: 3
Reply 7, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 1933 times:

Quoting avek00 (Reply 7):
The comedic irony in all of this is that Northwest employed this as one of its primary business strategies, and the airline was basically forced to merge itself off post haste in 2008 because the strategy backfired bigtime, leaving Northwest with massive fleet replacement needs more-or-less all at once in an environment of high fuel costs and tight credit.

I feel this differs somewhat from the way it played out at NW. DL is buying used but rather efficient aircraft as well as buying new aircraft to keep the fleet renewed without breaking the bank. High fuel costs should not hurt the MD90 or B717 fleets.


User currently offlineXFSUgimpLB41X From United States of America, joined Aug 2000, 4194 posts, RR: 37
Reply 8, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 1936 times:

Quoting avek00 (Reply 7):

The comedic irony in all of this is that Northwest employed this as one of its primary business strategies, and the airline was basically forced to merge itself off post haste in 2008 because the strategy backfired bigtime, leaving Northwest with massive fleet replacement needs more-or-less all at once in an environment of high fuel costs and tight credit.

That was not at all the reason for the merger... the two airlines were a perfect fit- each was strong where the other was weak.



Chicks dig winglets.
User currently offlinePSU.DTW.SCE From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 7555 posts, RR: 28
Reply 9, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 1935 times:

Quoting B757forever (Reply 9):
I feel this differs somewhat from the way it played out at NW. DL is buying used but rather efficient aircraft as well as buying new aircraft to keep the fleet renewed without breaking the bank. High fuel costs should not hurt the MD90 or B717 fleets.

Agreed. The difference here is DL is acquiring second-hand aircraft, these aircraft are not "old / older" as the article would imply. NW was acquiring aircraft that were already 20+ years old, with the intent of flying them to 30 years old (DC-10), or 35-40 years (DC-9)

The MD90 and 717s are generally 8-17 years old and still have 10-15-20 years of remaining economic life.

Quoting XFSUgimpLB41X (Reply 10):
That was not at all the reason for the merger... the two airlines were a perfect fit- each was strong where the other was weak.

Exactly. NWs fleet was not what led to the merger. Network was the biggest driving factor.


User currently offlinewoodsboy From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 1031 posts, RR: 3
Reply 10, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 1933 times:

Quoting B757forever (Reply 9):
I feel this differs somewhat from the way it played out at NW. DL is buying used but rather efficient aircraft as well as buying new aircraft to keep the fleet renewed without breaking the bank. High fuel costs should not hurt the MD90 or B717 fleets.

I totally agree and the WSJ article should have made more of a point here. DL isnt buying DC-9-50s which obviously would have higher fuel costs and more MX than the rest of the fleet but WE all know that the MD-90 compares very favorably with the 738 and the 717 is about as efficient as it gets and occupies a segment in which it is about the only "current"-ish model that exists. Fuel wont be the issue with the MD90 and 717 fleet, perhaps the first issues that would arise are parts. Both models were the end of the line for MDC so I see that as the only significant future issue. Of course DL has DeltaTechOPS and they are super experienced so lets not worry for now.

One funny thing- The FAA agrees that a plane can fly safely for 30 years? Really? 30 years? Tell that to the thousands of planes still out there flying pax and cargo that are much older than that, not to mention G/A aircraft. They should have said something about cycles & hours since those are the limiting factor of an air frame. Right here in Fairbanks DC-6s fly in and out every day and many of those planes are near 60 years old but were acquired as ex-USAF and Navy planes with only a handful of hours on the air frames. I remember a particular C-118 that Evert's flew up from Davis-Monthan that has been in storage since 1972 and had accumulated only 940 hours at the time it was stored.


User currently onlinen471wn From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1526 posts, RR: 2
Reply 11, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 1933 times:
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Bottom line is congrats to Delta for doing the math on aircraft. It is gratifying for them (as well as Allegaint) to have figured out that an older a/c is a wise investment when the acquisiton cost is low.....other airlines should pay attention to this!!

User currently offlineMSPNWA From United States of America, joined Apr 2009, 1933 posts, RR: 2
Reply 12, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 1933 times:

The older aircraft strategy can work as long as you're working with relatively current generation technology. It's when you're flying long obsolete aircraft, like NW was, that it comes back to bite you. So I predict DL to be competitive with this strategy for another 5-10 years. After that I doubt it will sustain itself at its current capacity. It's a short-term model.

Quoting Stitch (Reply 3):
As the article notes, fuel and maintenance prices can become crippling with older planes, which is why I see this as a short-term trick to allow DL to add capacity without significant capital expenditures that could also crush them if traffic collapses.

I agree. However there's a downside in case of economic struggles, and NW in the 2000s is a perfect case of this. Primarily owning a large fleet of older, less efficient aircraft certainly is an expense advantage if you have to park excess capacity. But here's the problem: It forces you into a situation where you have no choice but to shrink the airline, likely for quite some time. I fondly remember not too long ago when NW was the 4th-largest carrier, ahead of CO. When the mid-2000s struggles hit, and the subsequent bankruptcy, NW shrank markedly. A big reason was because they couldn't just send those DC-9s and DC-10s back into the fleet. And NW didn't have the money to buy new aircraft on a 1 for 1 basis. Some DC-9s were replaced by the CR9s and E75s, but that didn't come close to covering the capacity lost. End result: A now profitable but smaller airline that was eaten up. It's a good thing the fuel crises didn't hit NW earlier. That would have been a disaster.


User currently offlineavek00 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 4368 posts, RR: 19
Reply 13, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 1932 times:

Quoting XFSUgimpLB41X (Reply 10):
That was not at all the reason for the merger... the two airlines were a perfect fit- each was strong where the other was weak.

There is a difference in the rationales for a merger vs. the rationales for seeking a merger. We're both correct here - the merger rationale was the good fit of the combined networks, and one of Northwest's primary rationales for seeking the merger was the inability to deal with its fleet constraints (especially in terms of replacements) in its then-existing form.



Live life to the fullest.
User currently offlineusdcaguy From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 961 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 1935 times:

Money aside, what is interesting is that the article does not talk about what it feels like to fly around in older vs newer aircraft. Perhaps for short hops it matters less, but I think there is a vast difference in the feel of say, a 767 vs an A330 on long-haul flights, even when both planes have the same hard product. I'm not saying DL hasn't made the right financial moves to secure its future (it most definitely has), but there can be a trade-off in terms of perceived comfort if you're flying older planes. Somehow, the long trip I'm taking just isn't as special when the aircraft I'm on is old and boring or even refurbished and boring. When I fly the A380, for example, the idea of global travel comes alive in my mind, and disembarking through the top jetbridge is unforgettable, even as others take it for granted. We should never forget that long-haul international travel is still a luxury, and I believe it should feel special, even if it costs a little extra. It's a shame money is such a priority these days; we have only a short while on this planet, and much can be missed in the company of frugality.

User currently onlineStitch From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 30889 posts, RR: 87
Reply 15, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 1932 times:
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Quoting MSPNWA (Reply 14):
However there's a downside in case of economic struggles, and NW in the 2000s is a perfect case of this. Primarily owning a large fleet of older, less efficient aircraft certainly is an expense advantage if you have to park excess capacity. But here's the problem: It forces you into a situation where you have no choice but to shrink the airline, likely for quite some time.

The article did note that DL was using the saved money to reduce debt and raise their debt rating so if they do have to retire planes during a downtime, they might be in a position to add new planes when conditions improve thanks to a strong(er) credit rating.

Quoting usdcaguy (Reply 16):
Perhaps for short hops it matters less, but I think there is a vast difference in the feel of say, a 767 vs an A330 on long-haul flights, even when both planes have the same hard product.

I'd argue the 767 would be more comfortable as it would be 2+3+2 in Economy versus 2+4+2 on the A330. And in Business Class, you have lie-flat on the 767 (those upgraded to the Thompson Solutions Vantage product) versus angled-flat on the A330.  


User currently offlinePGNCS From United States of America, joined Apr 2007, 2821 posts, RR: 45
Reply 16, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 1932 times:

Quoting usdcaguy (Reply 16):
Perhaps for short hops it matters less, but I think there is a vast difference in the feel of say, a 767 vs an A330 on long-haul flights, even when both planes have the same hard product.

How? The overwhelming number of passengers don't know or care.

Quoting usdcaguy (Reply 16):
When I fly the A380, for example, the idea of global travel comes alive in my mind, and disembarking through the top jetbridge is unforgettable, even as others take it for granted. We should never forget that long-haul international travel is still a luxury

It's a commodity. The vast majority of passengers do not know or care what kind of plane they will be flying on with rare exception.

Quoting Stitch (Reply 17):
Quoting usdcaguy (Reply 16):Perhaps for short hops it matters less, but I think there is a vast difference in the feel of say, a 767 vs an A330 on long-haul flights, even when both planes have the same hard product.
I'd argue the 767 would be more comfortable as it would be 2+3+2 in Economy versus 2+4+2 on the A330. And in Business Class, you have lie-flat on the 767 (those upgraded to the Thompson Solutions Vantage product) versus angled-flat on the A330.

As much as I would prefer to fly the 330 and find them very comparable as a passenger, if anything the average coach passenger will prefer 2-3-2. That is the one real redeeming thing the 767 has going for it, and passengers do like it; i've stood in the door enough times saying goodbye after a 10 hour flight to know.


User currently offlineDeltaMD90 From United States of America, joined Apr 2008, 7877 posts, RR: 52
Reply 17, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 1934 times:

Quoting avek00 (Reply 7):

The comedic irony in all of this is that Northwest employed this as one of its primary business strategies,

There is a HUGE difference between MD-90s/717s and DC-9-30s/40s/50s/DC-10s...



Ironically I have never flown a Delta MD-90 :)
User currently offlinePSU.DTW.SCE From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 7555 posts, RR: 28
Reply 18, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 1934 times:

Quoting avek00 (Reply 15):
There is a difference in the rationales for a merger vs. the rationales for seeking a merger. We're both correct here - the merger rationale was the good fit of the combined networks, and one of Northwest's primary rationales for seeking the merger was the inability to deal with its fleet constraints (especially in terms of replacements) in its then-existing form.

NW had a plan in place post-bankruptcy to deal with its fleet renewal.
The widebody fleet was in good position with the A330 & 744s and 787 order (in hindsight now realizing how long it would've taken for them to get on-property.

NW had the order for CR9 & E175 and a plan in place to get down to ~30 DC-9-30/40 by the end of 2008, plus the 34 DC-9-50s.

The merger due-dilligence and talks started back in 2007, before the cost of fuel ran up in 2008 and before the credit crisis.

The only major unanswered question was how would NW replace the remaining ~30 DC-9-30/40s, but DL didn't end up finally retiring the bulk of those aircraft until late 2010/early 2011.

Meanwhile a good portion of the DC-9-50s still soldier on, flying the line.


User currently offlineCaspian27 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 381 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 1934 times:

Quoting PGNCS (Reply 18):
Quoting usdcaguy (Reply 16):
Perhaps for short hops it matters less, but I think there is a vast difference in the feel of say, a 767 vs an A330 on long-haul flights, even when both planes have the same hard product.

How? The overwhelming number of passengers don't know or care.

The 767 overhead bins are terrible though compared to the 330's. That matters to some people.



Meanwhile, somewhere 35,000 ft above your head...
User currently offlinePSU.DTW.SCE From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 7555 posts, RR: 28
Reply 20, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 1932 times:

Quoting Caspian27 (Reply 21):
The 767 overhead bins are terrible though compared to the 330's. That matters to some people.

How many people are booking away from DL 767s because of the overhead bins? really?


User currently offlineairtechy From United States of America, joined Dec 2006, 500 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 1932 times:

I avoid the 330 at all costs in business class because of the seats. When reclined they totally block access in the window seats behind ... much more so than other older business seats. What were they thinking when they designed these things? Can't wait for Delta to upgrade these to lie-flats with direct aisle access.

Renewing older aircraft with new interiors was an extremely smart move. While the need for 400? channels of entertainment is lost on me, I really like the new seats and their arrangement.

Jim


User currently offlineusdcaguy From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 961 posts, RR: 2
Reply 22, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 1931 times:

Quoting PGNCS (Reply 18):
It's a commodity. The vast majority of passengers do not know or care what kind of plane they will be flying on with rare exception.

Yes, we all know price and schedule drive everything, but many people will actually go out of their way to fly on a particular aircraft, and the savvy travelers I talk to will actually alter their route to fly on the carrier and aircraft they want to be on. That may not represent everyone, but the preference exists among a certain set of knowledgeable travelers. Personally, I will connect domestically if it means getting a better aircraft across the pond. DL can still benefit as it does offer good equipment on certain routes and codeshares with its partners who fly newer aircraft. I have not flown the refurbished 744s, but I plan to do so in a few months and will see what they're like.

Quoting airtechy (Reply 23):
I avoid the 330 at all costs in business class because of the seats. When reclined they totally block access in the window seats behind ... much more so than other older business seats. What were they thinking when they designed these things? Can't wait for Delta to upgrade these to lie-flats with direct aisle access.

I completely agree. I don't like how they took away the NW cloth seats and covered them with leather, which always seems to be coming off the seats. The newer seats on the KL A330 are some of the best in my book, although you don't have direct aisle access.

Quoting PGNCS (Reply 18):
As much as I would prefer to fly the 330 and find them very comparable as a passenger, if anything the average coach passenger will prefer 2-3-2.

Yes, that is the main advantage of the 767 in coach. The refurbishment of the seats, however, is more than welcome.


User currently offlinefanoftristars From United States of America, joined Jul 2000, 1607 posts, RR: 5
Reply 23, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 2102 times:

Delta's refurbished 767s would appear to be brand new to the average flyer. My roommate was on one to Accra and told me "we flew on one of Delta's new planes!" He liked it better than the A-330 from AMS. He knows nothing about planes and I would say is a typical passenger. Though I'd love to see some 787s in the DL fleet, their strategy is solid.




"FLY DELTA JETS"
User currently offlineDTWPurserBoy From United States of America, joined Feb 2010, 1617 posts, RR: 7
Reply 24, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 2119 times:

Quoting XFSUgimpLB41X (Reply 10):

That was not at all the reason for the merger... the two airlines were a perfect fit- each was strong where the other was weak.

Surely you are not saying that is mere coincidence that:

1. Delta's CEO Richard Anderson was the former Northwest CEO. He knew the stengths and weaknesses of both carriers.
2. Both airlines declared bankruptcy in the same New York Court on the same day.
3. Delta had an instant plan for merging the two carriers, which NWA employees to keep and who at DL to dump.
4. The merger plan was implemented instantly with preassigned dates for things like having the fleet painted, all emoloyees in DL uniforms on the same date (no mean feat in itself), all DL signage in place and a date for a single operating certificate. They hit every date direct on target.

This merger was a deal in the making for YEARS. I can't wait until the book come out that tells the real story!



Qualified on Concorde/B707/B720/B727/B737/B747/B757/B767/B777/DC-8/DC-9/DC-10/A319/A320/A330/MD-88-90
25 DeltaMD90 : To be fair, I don't think anything was 100% certain. Airlines do things like this all the time. It is highly doubtful DL will buy AA's MIA hub, but I
26 delta2ual : Entirely another topic, but it's interesting you brought that up. I was speaking to 2 friends from UA who work at Willis and they told me they wished
27 FI642 : I completely agree!
28 XFSUgimpLB41X : Where would you get that I was saying it was mere coincidence? 1. As soon as Anderson came over, I had a pretty distinct hunch- particularly when the
29 usairways787 : I find this interesting...If they are comparing our payscale to other airlines because Delta gave them a sheet, they need to actually run the numbers
30 DTWPurserBoy : IMHO Anderson left NW suddenly and went to UnitedHealthCare as CEO because he had taken all the cuts he could without touching the employees. Doug Ste
31 B757forever : Only the DL pilot pensions went to the PBGC. The others were frozen.
32 WA707atMSP : I think this is a very well thought out strategy, but I also think it also works better now, when there are still relatively low cycle DC-9 derivative
33 aviateur : That's a fact. Many people don't even realize what AIRLINE they're flying on half the time!......... "I just got back from London?" "Really, who did
34 mayor : In the first half of the first decade of the 00s, there was serious talk of a merger between DL and CO. IIRC, it was AFTER 9/11. Convenient coinciden
35 FlyASAGuy2005 : They're fixing that right now. What percentage of the flying public would you gether that group to be? That's actually incorrect. Only the pilot plan
36 Post contains images Stitch : Probably those on mileage runs or who don't care when they depart or arrive.
37 akelley728 : That's because the article deals with facts, not "feelings". But if you really need to go there, I would say 99% of the traveling public would say th
38 bobnwa : DL and CO did discuss a merger at that time, However the folks at CO decided they did not want a merger with DL. As a result of this, NW invested in
39 DTWPurserBoy : Thank you--you are, of course, correct. The clarfication is appreciated.
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