Delta Air Lines has actively put out a RFP for a replacement aircraft for their aging 744s and 763s. Delta Executives have continually said they they are not looking for a 1-to-1 replacement. This does not mean that their route system does not need a close replacement. The majority of the 744s currently fly Asian high yielding flights such as: JFK
. These flights typically are full. If you look at DL
's frequency percentage for Asia, they are sitting around 88%. DL
's 744s carry 376 passengers, 88% is 331. But DL
like anyone else will look at their potential growth over the next 25 years, let's call it a 10% increase. That is an additional 33 passengers, but add back the 12% for those high yielding days/seasons and you have 414 passengers. The plane that best fits the replacement figure for the 744s would be a 779. Also looking at product numbers for the Business travelers, this aircraft would best fit, especially since they make a lot of money off of those travelers. But an order for a 779 is not going to happen anytime soon from DL
. My opinion is DL
will be able to get 77W for cheap, and I personally do not believe they will be new. I think they or Boeing will be able to find some third hand 77Ws that could get them a bridge of 10-15 years before they will need to order a 77X type, maybe even both 778/779 as the additional size is not needed now. The 339 at 293, same configuration as their 3L3s (34J/32Y+/227Y) would not have the capacity to fill those routes, and the cost for more frequencies might be too high. I don't see a downgrade on those high yielding routes.
As for the 76Ws that need replacing, without knowing when the next D Check for each aircraft is, I see DL
not needing to retire more than 12 or so 76Ws, aircraft 171-182, before 2020. This is also saying they'd start retiring the these birds at 27-28 years old - which could be early. Some of those already get rotated to the dessert. So currently in their flight schedules, they are not in an urgent need of replacing, especially with the additional 10 333s starting to come in next year. But lets say they need to get 10 aircraft to replace those aircraft because they need them in the rotation (as they have stated that new 333s are to be for expansion). The best aircraft available between the 338 or 339 would be 338s as the 339s will increase the available seats per flight significantly and immediately. That would bring 20 new 293 aircraft before the end of the decade-5860 seats vs. 2562 seats in loss. Just 10 339s - 2930 vs. 2562 (12 birds). Thats 13-14% increase. The growth on majority of the flights between the 76W/764/332 is probably just not there as of yet. So then the question becomes is an order of 10 338s realistic? I personally would love to see some 338s and 339s in the DL
livery and to be able to fly on them, but is Airbus going to hand out a highly discounted price on just 10 or so frames? They could do a order of 20, 10 338 and 10 339s. The 339s then coming in 2025-2028 to replace the 77Es - which is when those will start to retire. But that is 10 years out, and there is no way they'd order 10 years in anticipation. But maybe they see a huge growth over the next 5 years. That's up to their forecasts. But again we are talking about Delta, they're probably the most conservative airline.
Ultimately I see the 76Ls (36J/32Y+/143Y- 211) and 76Ts (36J/29Y+/143Y - 208) being replaced with 788s (in the neighborhood of 32J/32Y+/156Y - 220 and 30J/32Y+/184Y - 246 configurations). Some of these, like I stated up above, could get a 338 with the same configuration as their 3L2s (34J/32Y+/168Y - 234). Majority of these will be needing replacement between 2020-2028.
The 76Zs (26J/29Y+/171Y - 226) being replaced by 789s (in the neighborhood of 40J/32Y+/190Y - 262 and 36J/32Y+/206Y - 274). But these 789s birds can be held off until 2022, though could show up as soon as 2020-2021.
So ultimately for this fulfillment of DL
's RFP, I see Boeing finding some used 77Ws at cheap prices to replace the 744s. They then could be advancing their current order and getting a few slots between 2017-2020 of some 788s, with an additional 12 frames (on top of their original 18 on order) coming before 2025. Along with the 12 788s, you could add 20 789s with deliveries also up until 2025. This would give DL
a total of 50 787s for the time being, as I could see many more coming after 2025 as they start replacing their 764s, 77Es, and 77Ls.
But you could also see a Boeing & Airbus win on the RFP. Instead of the additional 12 788s, they could 12-20 338s (12 before 2020 with additional 8 to replace later 76Ls) then 20 789s with the used 77Ws. It really comes down to which variables they really want to weigh and how they look at each flight and the best suited aircraft for those flights. So I am not sure anyone besides the DL
Executives know that, but we can all have fun with our predictions.