Sad: Delta Operates Final Boeing 777 Flight

Filed Under: Delta

Over the weekend Delta Air Lines operated its final Boeing 777 flight. Earlier this year we learned about Delta’s sudden 777 retirement plansĀ due to the pandemic, which is something that would have been unthinkable a year ago.

Delta’s final Boeing 777 flight

On Saturday, October 31, 2020, Delta operated its final commercial Boeing 777 flight, with the special flight number DL8777 (yes, the last three numbers are no coincidence).

The flight operated from New York to Los Angeles. This wasn’t a regular route for the Delta 777, but the reason for this was because the plane had just flown from Mumbai to New York, and it needed to get from there to Victorville, California, which will be its new home now (and maybe forever, but hopefully not).

So on Saturday the plane flew from New York to Los Angeles to Victorville, with the first flight taking 5hr22min, and the second flight (without passengers) taking 24min.

This was the last of Delta’s 777s to be retired, and it had the registration code N701DN. It just joined Delta’s fleet in 2008, so it was only 12 years old.

Delta has just operated its final Boeing 777 flight

Delta’s history with the Boeing 777

Delta began flying the 777 in 1999, so the aircraft type was part of Delta’s fleet for just over 20 years. Delta had a total of 18 Boeing 777s, including eight Boeing 777-200ERs and 10 Boeing 777-200LRs.

The airline took delivery of these 18 planes between 1999 and 2010, so they’re anywhere from 10-21 years old, which is rather young.

The 777s made all kinds of cool routes possible for Delta, especially given that the 777-200LR is one of the world’s longest range planes, and it allowed Delta to fly nonstop between Atlanta and Johannesburg.

Within the past couple of years Delta even spent $100 million updating the interiors of these planes, including installing new Delta One Suites in business class, Premium Select seats in premium economy, and more. Clearly Delta had long-term plans for these planes, but they became a casualty of the pandemic.

Delta just spent $100 million upgrading its 777s

Could Delta’s 777s still have a future?

Obviously the current pandemic is a turning point for the airline industry in many ways. Airlines are retiring planes at much faster rates than they were previously planning to, and there’s going to be a huge number of planes available on the secondhand market.

I have to imagine that at least some of Delta’s 777s will fly again. In some cases we’re talking about 10 year old Boeing 777-200LRs, which must be worth at least a bit more than scrap value.

While I don’t think any of these planes have found new owners yet, I’d be surprised if we didn’t at least see some of these 777s flying again. Maybe we’ll see Eastern acquire some, maybe some will be acquired by other airlines (particularly in Africa, Asia, or South America), or maybe we’ll see them operate some cargo missions.

Nigeria’s Air Peace is flying former Emirates 777s

The A350 is now Delta’s true flagship aircraft

While things were headed in this direction anyway, I think it’s safe to say that the A350-900 is now definitely Delta’s flagship aircraft, given that it’s the biggest and longest range plane the airline has.

Delta already has 15 of these planes in its fleet, with a further 20 on order. Delivery of at least 10 of those planes has been deferred beyond 2025.

Delta’s next biggest plane is the A330-900neo, of which the airline already has eight in its fleet, with a further 29 to be be delivered.

Capacity-wise the 777-200 and A350-900 are very similar — Delta had 296 seats on the former, and has 306 seats on the latter.

The only real challenge posed by the 777 retirement is that the A350-900 can’t operate the Johannesburg to Atlanta route nonstop without a major payload restriction. As a result, Delta will operate a triangle flight to South Africa, from Atlanta to Johannesburg to Cape Town to Atlanta, which can easily be flown by the A350.

Delta Airbus A350-900

Bottom line

Delta has become the first major US airline to retire the 777. While aircraft retirements across the board are being accelerated, I don’t think a year ago anyone could have imagined Delta would retire its 777s in 2020 (and obviously Delta couldn’t have either, or else the airline wouldn’t have spent so much reconfiguring these planes).

Here’s to hoping that these 777s have some life left in them at other airlines. This is only part of Delta’s accelerated aircraft retirement plans, as Delta will also be retiring 717s and 767-300s by 2025.

Do you think another airline will pick up Delta’s 777s?

Comments
  1. Sad to see, but expected. I do think DL will be the only A350/330 operator in the US. I doubt UA will take 40 A350s and focus on 787s and AA is already committed to the 787/777 pair.

    Seem like DL has become more like NWA than NWA became DL from an operational stand point.

  2. Sad to see these go. I wonder if Delta plans on scrapping all of the new Delta One suites they just installed, or pulling them off these planes to install on other aircraft.

  3. @DLPTATL

    I doubt that the seats can be used on other planes. The 777 is quite wide, and the seats were designed especially and specifically for that plane. In all likelihood they would not work on the 359, 333, etc. because of this

    To be honest, given the $100 million expenditure DL just put on these planes (and the fact that some of them are literally only 10 years old) I’m kind of surprised they’re doing this. It seems like a kind of extreme thing to do (yes, I get that these times are extreme, but they will, at some point, get better. even if it’s not till 2022, we will get a vaccine/herd immunity).

  4. Nice tribute, Ben. I was on the DL8777 ATL-LAX (second-to-last 777 flight) along with a bunch of other AvGeeks, plus a few unsuspecting normal people, and am really sad to see her go. And in that comfortable 3-3-3 W/Y configuration there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house. The 777s introduced me to the world, and I’ll remember them fondly… at least until I’m squeezed into a 10-abreast version one day šŸ˜‰

    Slight correction to your post: it was actually 8x B777-200ER and 10x B777-200LR.

  5. Whatā€™s really sad is Deltas onboard service right now. Claiming coffee is dangerous at 6am but serving beer is perfectly safe. Claiming serving juice on US flights spreads the Covid but serving it on international flights is safe. Time for a post calling them out on using Covid to justify their cost cutting.

  6. Wasn’t Delta late operating the 777 due to labor disputes? By the time they resolved it around the time of the 777-200LR, Delta didn’t order too many of any 777’s.

  7. A350 is not a true flagship aircraft, it rocks in turbulence due to its light build and is more a 767 type of aircraft. Too Narrow and small to be a true flagship with litre freight capacity.

    Delta have come out of the big league now with this change. Clearly a point to point rather than a hub airline into the future.

  8. I think Delta jumped the gun too quick to get rid of the 777LR’s. Time will only tell when international air travel returns. I have never flown on the a350 but I really enjoyed flying on the 777.

  9. I potentially see the same happening to CX. Many years the 777-300ER was their flagship aircraft. I have flown the route YVR-HKG-YVR literally a hundred times. Always loved the Cadillac of the skies, only downside: noise.
    CX has now shifted to the A350, I like how quiet it is ans flown it maybe 10x the last 10months, yes even in current times. While it is much quieter and better cabin pressure etc, it does feel more flimsy and doesn’t handle turbulence in the same way. I enjoy both aircraft and I am sure sad to see any 777 retire.

  10. @Jimmy: Exactly, the onboard service is pretty bad. Iā€™ve flown in economy and first class on Delta. Everyone gets the same snack bag while in first class on longer flights, you get a flight fuel box (fancy term for a bigger snack bag). No soda but youā€™re allowed to bring them on board.

    Meanwhile, Iā€™ve flown AA first class a few times and always got a hot meal. Even got a Jack and Coke with my meals. Come on Delta, step it up!

  11. This is bad news for Boeing. Max issues will linger, cant get the 777-9 out of the gate properly with airlines delaying delivery.

    Airbus is truly cleaning up at the moment, with the A350 becoming the flagship, and 787’s operating the thinner routes.

    Amazing times.

  12. @Jordan to be fair, you cannot blame Boeing for that they cant get the 777-9 out of the gate properly with airlines delaying delivery.

  13. I have flown both the 777(delta) and 350 (finnair) in economy comfort. Didn’t really notice a noise difference. The 350 is quieter but its not like the 777 is noisy. Sad to see them go.

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