It sounds like with what was announced yesterday, that DL intends to fly between 30-45 of the 717 fleet for the next two years. Flying to be focused at ATL & DTW as pilot bases in NYC and MSP are to close and flying filled by other types.
We can speculate about everything else but that what announced and how they intend to staff the aircraft going forward in the near-term.
Reading between the lines you see they said next two years which would take it up to the point the seat AD needs to be addressed.
Will DL keep 50% of the fleet permanently parked in storage or will they reactive as demand warrants?
Will DL be negotiating an early return / lease termination of the parked portion of the fleet with Boeing?
The requirement for seat replacement puts a clock on the 717. Something will be resolved in the next two years. Also, most of us will have Covid-19 by then, unless a vaccine is tested and mass produced in time. So the proposals of 2 seats across is a non-starter.
So either DL decides in about a year to start replacing seats, or the type is doomed. I predict the most likely outcome is new seats.
DL was utilizing the 717s in low utilization service.https://av-info.faa.gov/sdrx/Query.aspx
Put in a registration number (without N, say 949AT) and a time frame (I like 01/01/2018 to current date).
That plane from 1/22/2019 to 8/5/2019 only flew 869 cycles. Let us call it 1300 per year and a similar number of hours. Looking at all the 717s, DL has not been flying them high utilization. They fly them on peak demand days only at peak times.
Airline cannot afford to buy new aircraft, even heavily discounted new aircraft, for that low of utilization. All of the US3 fly what I think of as the Allegiant model with a subfleet of their aircraft. Always older aircraft, that only fly a little (excluding say around Thanksgiving where it becomes pilot duty hours limited). The high utilization flying is by the A220 fleet.
Put in an A220 (103DU,for some reason 101DU doesn't show up). It is flying about 2800 hours/year, but similar cycles (1300). Looking at 107DU, very similar utilization (when put on an annual basis I calculate about 1300 cycles and 2800 hours, which is low utilization for a new plane at under 4 cycles a day and under 8 hours a day).
So unless DL plans to fly A220s a lot less, I expect new seats for the 717s. In particular as the 717s are just past a third of the Limit of Validity (certified allowed usable life of 110,000 cycles and 150,000 hours). DC-9s were flown (going from memory here...) up to just over 98,000 cycles, so the basic structure can take much more. (This was HA, I don't remember the hours, but it was much less than the cycles due to island hoping.)
When I joined a.net 15 years ago (yes 2005), there were a huge number of NW DC-9 threads as those ancient birds had to go... They flew on until early January 2014. https://www.cnn.com/2014/01/06/travel/d ... index.html
The 717s were acquired cheap for low utilization duty. Because of that, I see 104DU 36780 cycles plus another 7 months of use (say 37,600 cycles now, estimated) and 51,880 hours plus estimated usage (let us call is 53,000 hours). I spot checked a few registrations, and I simply cannot find any Delta 717 at even 40% of the limit of validity. I've never been one to say one flies up every scrap of utilization. But for the low utilization duty the 717s have been used for, the most important aspect is low fixed costs.
Honestly, why would DL replace the fleet as long as the BR710/BR725 is in high enough utilization to ensure the BR715 has easy spare parts? They won't fly these forever, but the aircraft to replace them with are used aircraft, not MAXs.
This isn't to say DL won't trade them in for MAXs. But the real replacement might be say used 73G, A319, A320, or 738s. The A220 will need to age a lot more and have 50+ available used to be considered which is at least 8 years away. It won't be shiny aircraft syndrome that replaces the 717s.
It is my opinion DL operates the 717s, A319s, and A320s in a fashion analogous to how Allegiant operates. So I suggest reading the Allegiant thread for insight into the 717 fate: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1438059
Or Better, listen to the Allegiant conference call as so many aspects weren't put in writing:http://ir.allegiantair.com/events-and-p ... ast-events
I suspect DL is pursuing the same strategy:
1. Park aircraft to use them as parts donors, in particular for engine green time (why half the DL 717 fleet is parked, IMHO.)
2. Wait for used aircraft prices to drop. Allegiant goes as far to allude (but not outright state) that they believe it will be cheaper to buy used A319s/A320s for their "motors" (I prefer to call them engines) and short term and flyable A320s to replace parked aircraft rather than reactivate them.
While DL maintains aircraft and engines well, some are old. I looked up 309US. On 10/22/2019 it had 39,876 cycles and 87,382 hours. If that airframe is coming up on a heavy maintenance check, scrap it as by now it should be at about 75% of the LOV hours (For A320-200 60,000 cycles and 120,000 hours). It is a 1990 delivery and since it was stored a bunch, there are probably corrosion issues to be found. (Recall, airbus dramatically improved coatings by MSN 1000, this is MSN 118.)
So I can see 20 to 30 of the 717 fleet bought from Boeing as cheap engine/parts donor frames and scrapped. The rest, I expect to fly. I expect DL to go on a used A320 buying binge when they see the market improving, but not buying anything below say MSN 2000. I base this off what I think costs will be in 3 months. For it will be the rare MSN 2000+ that has over 25,000 cycles or over 50,000 FH. In other words, at worst at 40% of LOV. I just think used aircraft pricing will be so low, why bother buying anything used up more than 40% of LOV? At least until 2023.
DL's A320 fleet.https://www.airfleets.net/flottecie/Del ... e-a320.htm
Winter is coming.