Cubsrule wrote:PSU.DTW.SCE wrote:FLALEFTY wrote:The 777 has had a strange past with Delta. In the late-1990's Delta had hoped to replace both the MD-11 and L-1011-500 fleets in their entirety with the B77E's. However, due to contract issues with the pilot's, they only took 7 B77E's in 1999 and an 8th in 2002. This RR Trent-powered, B77E subfleet is still at the same number today.
Wanting a greater presence in the TPAC market, Delta's B77L fleet of 10 planes were added in 2008 & 9 just as the Great Recession was raging and before the bankruptcy and eventual merger with NW. This GE90-powered B77L fleet has not changed since.
The cost of keeping up two different engines for a B777 fleet of just 18 aircraft must be high. Also, keeping the pilot & crew pools, simulators & ops/training program for such a small subfleet has to be expensive, too. The B777 fleet's days were numbered when Delta ordered the A359's several years ago.
Yeah, at a high level I've always known the 777 has had a strange history with DL, unlike where its been a backbone and mainstay of the AA and UA fleets.
Can you elaborate a bit more since I didn't follow DL as closely before the merger.
What was the driver for the initial 77E order?
What were the original plans to grow the fleet much larger?
Didn't they end up doing a lot of ATL-Florida / domestic flying in the early 2000s?
What led to the 77L order?
The story really goes back to DL buying the MD-11, I think. The Tristar was not a great performer ex-PDX to Asia and could not do ATL-NRT. The MD-11s could do all of the PDX TPAC flying without restrictions and could do ATL-NRT, albeit restricted. The 77E was an MD-11 replacement, but something like two thirds of the MD-11 fleet was used for PDX, so when the economy in East Asia tanked in the late 90s and DL dismantled the PDX hub, the 77E was left as somewhat of an orphan. It basically did ATL-NRT and TATL flying. Between Europe runs there was a fair amount of ATL-Florida flying, largely but not exclusively to MCO. (Keep in mind that in the early 00s, DL had a lot more capacity on ATL-Florida. ATL-JAX, for example, rarely saw anything smaller than a 752 and routinely saw widebodies.)
When DL needed more widebody range in the mid-00s, the 77L was really the only game in town. The 330 was much less capable then, and the 77Ls do have some commonality with the 77E.
This is true. The MD-11 was supposed to be the L-1011 replacement for Delta. They originally ordered 9, with an option for a further 39, which if exercised would have been roughly a one-for-one replacement. However, disappointment with the early payload/range performance of the MD-11, along with a rash of software gremlins in the avionics suite that gave the type fair-to-poor dispatch reliability, led to Delta only taking a total of 17 of these aircraft. Ironically, the aerodynamic fixes Mac made to get the MD-11 up to spec on the range/payload also made it notoriously difficult to fly in low-speed approach/landing flight modes. Still, Delta kept the MD-11's around for 13 years. The problem is that they also had to keep the L-1011's around throughout the 1990's due to the MD-11's dispatch issues.
The B77E's were bought to replace both the MD-11's and the last of the L-1011-500's. The base order was for 8, but they had purchase rights for more. However, due to issues with the pilot contract amendment to add the B77E (the pilots wanted something similar to United's B744-level hourly rates to fly the 777), and later the business collapse aftermath caused by 9/11, put future orders for the type on ice. By the mid-2000's, business recuperated and the TPAC markets were heating up, so Delta went to Boeing looking for more B777's and purchased 10 brand-new B77L's, thanks the variant's better TPAC payload/range performance from their ATL hub.
As for domestic usage of Delta's widebody fleet, the frequent appearance of the L-1011, MD-11, B767 and B777 at MCO over the years were done for longhaul tag-ends (e.g. there used to be a MCO-LAX-NRT MD-11 flight in the 90's), seasonal capacity bumps and for "showing the flag" for Delta at one of its most important and competitive destination markets. And like all big international airlines, they still do hub-to-hub runs with their big jets.