Report: Delta Considering Big Boeing 737 MAX Order

Report: Delta Considering Big Boeing 737 MAX Order

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Delta is the only major US airline that doesn’t have the Boeing 737 MAX in its fleet (which I’d consider to be a positive, personally). For a couple of years now there have been rumors of Delta placing a Boeing 737 MAX order, though up until now nothing has materialized. Reuters now reports that Delta and Boeing are in advanced talks over a big Boeing 737 MAX order.

Delta in negotiations for Boeing 737 MAX

It’s being reported that Boeing and Delta are in negotiations over an order of up to 100 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. If a deal were to be reached, it could be announced as early as April.

Specifically, Delta is most interested in the 737 MAX 10, which is the highest capacity version of the 737 MAX. If this were to happen, not only would it be Delta’s first 737 MAX order, but it would be the carrier’s first new aircraft order from Boeing in about a decade.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian has for many months been hinting at the possibility of a deal with Boeing, stating that “there’s certainly a place for [the MAX] if we can figure out how to bring them in.”

Delta has long been an opportunistic aircraft buyer, and has taken a different strategy than other major airlines in the United States:

  • Delta is happy to buy used aircraft, and also operate planes longer than other airlines; used planes can often be purchased for a fraction of the cost of new planes, and the airline makes the interiors nice so that customers won’t feel like they’re flying on an older plane
  • When Delta buys new aircraft, the airline is typically looking for a great deal; Delta is very strategic about when it buys new aircraft
Delta recently picked up some used Airbus A350s

Go figure that for a long time Delta not buying the 737 MAX was a huge competitive advantage. When the plane was grounded due to two fatal crashes, that posed a great challenge for American and Southwest (at least pre-coronavirus), since they had to significantly reduce capacity. With the 737 MAX flying once again, that’s no longer the case.

Does Delta need the Boeing 737 MAX?

In the long run I can see why Delta might want to place a Boeing 737 MAX order. The airline is willing to fly planes that are 20+ years old, so perhaps the need isn’t as immediate as at other airlines. But looking at Delta’s narrow body fleet:

  • Delta has 95 Airbus A220s on order, which more than replace the carrier’s 53 Boeing 717s; then again, Delta recently retired all of its MD-80s, leading to a significant capacity reduction
  • Delta has 127 Airbus A321s in its fleet, which are an average of around three years old, and the carrier also has 155 Airbus A321neos on order; these will more than replace the carrier’s 127 Boeing 757s (arguably the airline could use some A321XLRs for long and thin routes)
  • Delta has 114 A319s and A320s, which are an average of well over 20 years old, so these will need to be replaced at some point
  • Delta has 77 Boeing 737-800s in its fleet, plus 159 Boeing 737-900ERs, which are an average of over 10 years old

What surprises me about this potential deal is that Delta is looking at the 737 MAX 10, rather than the smaller variants. The 737 MAX 10 is a competitor to the A321neo, so you’d think that Delta already has that segment of the market well covered, especially since these planes are still quite new. However, it looks like Delta wants most of its narrow body growth to be with ~200 seat aircraft, rather than ~150 seat aircraft.

Delta 737
Delta has a huge Boeing 737 fleet

Why hasn’t Delta ordered the 737 MAX?

In the fall of 2021, Bastian expressed surprise that Delta hasn’t yet reached a deal on 737 MAXs, so why isn’t this happening? All we can do is speculate, but it sure seems to me like it comes down to price.

Delta and Ryanair are both known to be looking for a deal when it comes to buying planes. Similar to Delta, Ryanair has been in negotiations with Boeing for quite a while over an additional 737 MAX order. In the fall of 2021 it was announced that negotiations between the two companies had been called off, as they weren’t able to reach a deal. As Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary described it:

“We are disappointed we couldn’t reach agreement with Boeing on a Max 10 order. However, Boeing have a more optimistic outlook on aircraft pricing than we do, and we have a disciplined track record of not paying high prices for aircraft.”

I’d guess that it has been a similar story at Delta, and that this has caused the delay with the order. While you’d think Boeing would be desperate for deals, given the horrible few years the aircraft manufacturer had, that doesn’t seem to be the case. If Ryanair can’t reach a deal then one has to wonder if Delta can.

Perhaps Delta has one significant advantage in negotiating over Ryanair, though:

  • Boeing knows that Delta would gladly place an Airbus order, and for that matter the airline has ordered a huge number of A321neos
  • Ryanair exclusively operates Boeing 737s, and is all about fleet commonality, so Boeing probably thinks Ryanair wouldn’t even consider buying Airbus aircraft
Ryanair recently called off 737 MAX purchase discussions

Bottom line

It’s being reported that Boeing and Delta are nearing a deal for a 737 MAX order. Specifically, Delta is allegedly interested in ordering up to 100 737 MAXs, most of which would be the largest -10 variant. We’ll have to stay tuned as to whether or not a deal actually happens.

The only part of this that surprises me is that Delta plans to order the 737 MAX 10, which is the highest capacity version of the jet. Delta already has 280+ A321-family aircraft in its fleet or on order, with a very young average fleet age. This suggests to me that Delta is looking to increase the amount of flying it does with higher capacity narrow body jets.

Do you think Delta will order Boeing 737 MAXs?

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  1. Javan Hamilton Guest

    Why would not having the MAX in the fleet be considered a positive, if it’s thus shown itself to be a well-performing jet with a long life ahead of it? To clarify, I’m talking about its current life after the incidents.

    I know the aviation community hates Boeing these days (and rightfully so), but come on…

  2. Rena Guest

    Please don't take any Boeing products. After watching the documentary Downfall (the case against Boeing) on Netflix my family never plan to fly on the Max aircraft. We plan to use Delta for our travel as I had understood it to not have any Max planes in the fleet. Please use Airbus instead

  3. Roger Strealy Guest

    Ask the Emirates how they like the quality of their Airbus planes?

  4. Andy Mck Guest

    There seems to be no passenger fear of flying on the max based on information from American, united, and southwest. Additionally, after all the scrutiny the max has undergone, it’s probably one of the safest planes in the air right now. Delta is long overdue in supporting a US manufacturer.

    1. Everton Figueiredo Martins Guest

      The plane was not even certified, it has never traveled on it and is claiming that it is a sardine, better to be silent than to talk nonsense, I hope Delta makes this purchase, Boeing is and will turn it around, everyone deserves a chance

  5. Josh Guest

    Word to Delta Airlines management who read this.... PLEASE DO NOT BUY THE MAX, it is a POS!!! Keep with Airbus, if I was in senior management I would buy more of the A220's and any larger units that are in the pipeline! BOEING SUCKS!

  6. Husnain Rehmani Guest

    I think its best for delta if they order Boeing 737 MAXs for their airline but still gonna need best pilots
    I was reading related news on https://bhonlineclasses.com/

  7. Mike Bell Guest

    Where will they get the pilots from? They better buy them. Alaska? Allegiant? The math is never wrong.

  8. Eric Guest

    Please don't. I live in Seattle and for now the most important reason I choose Delta over Alaska is Delta doesn't have any 737MAX

  9. Kevin Hollander Guest

    Boeing is a much better and smoother airplane. I would welcome Delta buying MAXes- especially in first and comfort+ their Boeing jets are better.

  10. Carl Guest

    I'm a Delta frequent flyer for many reasons but the fact that they don't have the 737 max in their fleet is one of them. Safety aside, I was hoping they would focus on the A320/321-neo and especially the A220 for their wider-seats cabins instead of the Max family. And even in this family, the Max 10 is actually the worst aircraft. Not only the engines are too forward to provide proper aerodynamics when climbing...

    I'm a Delta frequent flyer for many reasons but the fact that they don't have the 737 max in their fleet is one of them. Safety aside, I was hoping they would focus on the A320/321-neo and especially the A220 for their wider-seats cabins instead of the Max family. And even in this family, the Max 10 is actually the worst aircraft. Not only the engines are too forward to provide proper aerodynamics when climbing (hence the infamous MCAS) but the super-stretched fuselage would have the tail scratch the runway at landing and takeoff if it was not for this telescopic landing gear Boeing had to create for the -10. An aircraft with flawed aerodynamics fixed a-la-Inspector-Gadget...what could go wrong? Delta is also missing out on the fact that, while passengers don't usually pay attention to the age of the aircraft, they will actually notice the difference in comfort and space offered by the A220 vs the sardine-like experience of the Max-10. Let's hope they don't fly the Max-10 on premium routes, which given its extended capacity, they may actually do.

  11. Sainnt Guest

    It's becoming clearer and clearer that the Max is proving to be a better plane for airlines economically, and passengers seem to like them too.
    With superiority in efficiency, and the fact that Boeing has a smaller backlog than Airbus, it makes sense that airlines are becoming more eager to add this aircraft to their fleet.
    Had it not been for the bungled design that caused earlier crashes, Boeing would be in a...

    It's becoming clearer and clearer that the Max is proving to be a better plane for airlines economically, and passengers seem to like them too.
    With superiority in efficiency, and the fact that Boeing has a smaller backlog than Airbus, it makes sense that airlines are becoming more eager to add this aircraft to their fleet.
    Had it not been for the bungled design that caused earlier crashes, Boeing would be in a much better position, but they now seem to be making up for it as the aircraft continues to grow in popularity.

  12. Marlon Guest

    A little deceptive. Delta's 737-900ers are not an average of 10 years old. I assume you're combining the 800s and 900ers.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      Delta's 737-900ERs which are in-service and purchased new from Boeing are actually 5.6 years old as of Dec 31, 2021 in Delta's annual report. Delta got some of the last 737NGs off the assembly line just as was the case with the A321CEO. They purchased 29 used 737-900ERs but those are not in-service.

      The 737-800s are older and Delta's combined 737 fleet is 11 years old as of today.

  13. Jim Guest

    Operationally, the 737M10 has a very unusual limitation: takeoff length. Still working out the details but looking at other 737M specs, I'd guesstimate it at nearly 9000 feet at sea level. There are some midsize airports that just don't have that kind of runway.

  14. pj Guest

    The DL 737-900 is nothing more than the AA max without a TV screen in front of you- absolutely miserable in m/c.

  15. RJ_McBean New Member

    I actively avoid the 737 Max. In fact, refuse to board one. It will take more than a few years of pandemic impaired operation before I'm willing to trust them.

  16. Spuwho Guest

    Fleet diversity provides not only a technology hedge, but also can be used as a pricing hedge. Now that it is clear Boeing is giving up on the former MD-9x/717 market and turning it over to Bombardier/Airbus with the A220 (which Delta has clearly targeted) its time for DL to find a hedge for the A321. Over commitment to one builder may bring near term volume savings, but can cost dearly when it comes time...

    Fleet diversity provides not only a technology hedge, but also can be used as a pricing hedge. Now that it is clear Boeing is giving up on the former MD-9x/717 market and turning it over to Bombardier/Airbus with the A220 (which Delta has clearly targeted) its time for DL to find a hedge for the A321. Over commitment to one builder may bring near term volume savings, but can cost dearly when it comes time to replace them. By queuing up your options now can provide DL with pricing leverage.

    As for the LEAP engines, I thought the GE/Snecma JV was called Safran now. At least that is the logo on their buildings. Just saying.

  17. JamesW Guest

    Typical of Delta to conveniently forget the lengthy and messy tariff debacle from the Trump era once the market shifted. They held out until the Trump/Ross DoC leaders were out of office and people forgot about the dispute, and until Boeing got SOOOO desperate to sell their subpar Max that they'd agree to whatever terms Delta offered.

    Many corporate boards would be stung for years by an outrageous and costly trade dispute like the...

    Typical of Delta to conveniently forget the lengthy and messy tariff debacle from the Trump era once the market shifted. They held out until the Trump/Ross DoC leaders were out of office and people forgot about the dispute, and until Boeing got SOOOO desperate to sell their subpar Max that they'd agree to whatever terms Delta offered.

    Many corporate boards would be stung for years by an outrageous and costly trade dispute like the one Boeing dragged Delta into over the C-Series jets. Many boards would say "We're not giving those clowns a cent of our money for at least a decade. But not the Atlanta gang!

    Delta would buy planes from Satan or Vladimir Putin if they thought they could get a bargain.

    1. ConcordeBoy Gold

      Corporations don't operate on emotional grudges.

      See AA vis-a-vis Airbus concerning AA587. Didn't stop them from placing massive order (at the time, the world's largest) a few years after.

  18. Fred Guest

    Boeing may not be all that great when it comes to quality and engineering any more but their sales/commercial side seems to be excellent! Perhaps down the line the engineering and build can be outsourced to COMAC

  19. RF Guest

    I'd rather fly Airbus. Hopefully Delta is just using this to negotiate better pricing with Airbus. Boeing needs to be reorganized.

  20. Aaron Chandler Guest

    Airlines only have 2 choices , both have long lines.

  21. crankkypanys007 Guest

    Or....

    Delta has options for 70 more A321Neo's and 50 - A220's.

    Perhaps they are just using Boeing to beat Airbus down on price...

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      Aircraft options are generally price defined as part of the contract as long as the option is exercised within the defined timeframe.

  22. Brent Kellogg Guest

    I consider a Delta order about as likely as an Iberian order through IAG.
    They are a captive Airbus company and in the SeaTac Seattle market, Alaska competes well with them. Deltas 737 NGs are older.
    Before IAG, Boeing stopped making formal offers to Iberia. It was a lost cause. I would expect the same approach to Delta.

  23. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    It’s about time Delta buy American.

    But the 737-900 sucks big time. Lavatory is too small in first. The galley is too small for hot meals and cart prep. Closet is at the back of first. I prefer the 321 and the 757.

    1. tipsyinmadras Gold

      Both Boeing and Airbus use a huge amount of US sourced parts and manufacturing - does it really matter where the parent company is incorporated? "Buying American" just for the sake of it when the Max isn't as good as the A32xNeo doesn't make any sense. The 737-900 is the worst passenger experience in the Delta fleet - wouldn't be surprised if the Max 10 was even worse

    2. XPL Guest

      "It’s about time Delta buy American."

      It's not a question of buying American-made aircraft, but from Boeing specifically. And why would Delta buy Boeing after their CSeries dumping petition? It basically boiled down to "if you don't buy Boeing we'll file BS lawsuits to block you from buying anything else." Not only would Delta be foolish to do business with thugs like that, so would any other airline. I say that with a heavy heart...

      "It’s about time Delta buy American."

      It's not a question of buying American-made aircraft, but from Boeing specifically. And why would Delta buy Boeing after their CSeries dumping petition? It basically boiled down to "if you don't buy Boeing we'll file BS lawsuits to block you from buying anything else." Not only would Delta be foolish to do business with thugs like that, so would any other airline. I say that with a heavy heart because my father was a proud Boeing lifer, but facts are facts.

  24. Lance Guest

    I'd prefer that DL stay away from Boeing planes at this point. We've seen story after story about shoddy workmanship and engineering out of Boeing. Like the author, I consider DL's large Airbus fleet to be a strategic advantage. Living in a DL fortress hub, their fleet decision matters a lot here.

    1. Njr Guest

      Hope DL stay away from the paint eating gremlins on Airbus aircraft

  25. ConcordeBoy Gold

    We've been hearing of Delta allegedly being in the edge of a deal with Boeing over 737MAXes, every few months over the last three years.

    Sticking points always seem to be price (easily fixable) and getting an MRO deal (not so likely). I can only imagine that the latter has recently changed, if they claim to still be interested.
    _____________
    I'm still more surprised that Boeing hasn't finally found a way to worm...

    We've been hearing of Delta allegedly being in the edge of a deal with Boeing over 737MAXes, every few months over the last three years.

    Sticking points always seem to be price (easily fixable) and getting an MRO deal (not so likely). I can only imagine that the latter has recently changed, if they claim to still be interested.
    _____________
    I'm still more surprised that Boeing hasn't finally found a way to worm the 787 into DL's fleet.

    As cool as the A330NEO is, its comparative lack of range/payload significant limits DL in launching new longhaul routes, relative to UA and AA. Particularly seeing as average seat count on the A350 fleet is about to go up. Will be tough having a 330+ seater as your entry-level longhaul aircraft.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      From a range and performance standpoint, the A350 is the competitor to the B787-9.
      The A330-900 is a re-engine of the A330 which is the 2nd highest selling widebody of all time IIRC. Being a derivative makes it cheaper. The A330-900 is really a replacement for the 777-200ER; they both can easily do 14 hour flights

      And there is much more to be gained from having 2 fleets of narrowbody families - the...

      From a range and performance standpoint, the A350 is the competitor to the B787-9.
      The A330-900 is a re-engine of the A330 which is the 2nd highest selling widebody of all time IIRC. Being a derivative makes it cheaper. The A330-900 is really a replacement for the 777-200ER; they both can easily do 14 hour flights

      And there is much more to be gained from having 2 fleets of narrowbody families - the 737 and 320 family, both in the hundreds - than to add the 787 which DL is unlikely to order in large enough quantities to generate any efficiencies.

      The MAX10 isn't selling at volumes necessary for it to make money given that United also likely got great prices. Boeing had to do something to get another blue chip airline onboard the MAX program. Also, every MAX that Boeing sells to Delta is one less Airbus that Delta will buy.

    2. ConcordeBoy Gold

      Almost anything can be cross-compared as "competitors," but the reality of the comparison made here is a 280tonne (soon) 330seater, versus a 254tonne (approximate) 250 seater, with similar range profiles.

      26tonnes and ~80seats is no small gap.

      Sure having a 242tonne aircraft (in theory up to 251) helps over the Atlantic and north Pacific, but its practical range is a nearly 1,000nm shortfall, and its payload profile craters far before that range, versus the 789......

      Almost anything can be cross-compared as "competitors," but the reality of the comparison made here is a 280tonne (soon) 330seater, versus a 254tonne (approximate) 250 seater, with similar range profiles.

      26tonnes and ~80seats is no small gap.

      Sure having a 242tonne aircraft (in theory up to 251) helps over the Atlantic and north Pacific, but its practical range is a nearly 1,000nm shortfall, and its payload profile craters far before that range, versus the 789... hence the MASSIVE disparity in worldwide sales.

      One's gotta wonder if DL is making the best of a limiting situation, versus essentially every other major carrier on the planet, including other sterling Airbus longhaul-flying customers (e.g. LH, AF, HA, etc) who opted for the 789 despite their significant A330 fleets.

    3. Tim Dunn Diamond

      This is a thread about narrowbody aircraft but the simple fact is that the A350 is the preferred aircraft for ultra-long haul operations according to global airline schedules compared to the B787. The A350's larger size makes it more economical -for the same reason that Boeing is increasing the size of the B777X vs. the B777. Delta was either going to introduce the A350 or B787 as a new aircraft and chose the A350.

      The...

      This is a thread about narrowbody aircraft but the simple fact is that the A350 is the preferred aircraft for ultra-long haul operations according to global airline schedules compared to the B787. The A350's larger size makes it more economical -for the same reason that Boeing is increasing the size of the B777X vs. the B777. Delta was either going to introduce the A350 or B787 as a new aircraft and chose the A350.

      The A330NEO is a derivative aircraft which makes it cheaper and lower risk to Delta. It is not Delta's job to determine if the economics of the program work for Airbus.

      Whether you can see it or not, Delta did not buy the A330NEO as a competitor or alternative to the B787 because it is not. The A330-900 has 6500-7000 miles of range which covers large portions of Delta's network and its smaller size compared to the A350 allow it to serve routes which free up the A350. The DL A330-900 and the AA B787-9 have similar configurations but the AA 789 is the top of their fleet while DL has the A350 above the 787 in size. DL's A350 seats the same number of passengers (+/-1) than AA's B77W

  26. Tim Dunn Diamond

    The likely reason that Delta has not ordered the MAX so far is that GE/Snecma has not been willing to give Delta engine overhaul rights for the LEAP engine which is the exclusive powerplant for the MAX series. Delta has overhaul rights for engines built by Pratt and Whitney and Rolls-Royce that power all of the new aircraft Delta has on order - currently all from Airbus.
    If GE/Snecma is willing to give Delta...

    The likely reason that Delta has not ordered the MAX so far is that GE/Snecma has not been willing to give Delta engine overhaul rights for the LEAP engine which is the exclusive powerplant for the MAX series. Delta has overhaul rights for engines built by Pratt and Whitney and Rolls-Royce that power all of the new aircraft Delta has on order - currently all from Airbus.
    If GE/Snecma is willing to give Delta overhaul rights for the LEAP engine, it would mean that Delta would be in a position to service every western new generation engine.
    Given that the MAX 10 has sold poorly but it has the potential to be similar capacity-wise if not in some regards for performance to some of the A321s to the 757-200 of which Delta still has 100 as well as an upgauge from the 737-800s, there is a good chance that Boeing pushed GE/Snecma to give Delta engine maintenance rights in order to gain Delta as a MAX customer.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      Ben posts Delta news early in the day, with me in the Pacific time zone.

      How can I be expected to “predict” the obvious incoming glowing Delta praise comment by Tim Dunn under these conditions?

    2. Tim Dunn Diamond

      Not sure what you find surprising but no other US airline and few in the world has the maintenance contract from the engine manufacturer for every engine it has on order.
      If it takes you waking up to realize that and you find offense that someone notes it as part of Delta's strategies, you have missed the plot line.

    3. Never In Doubt Guest

      Lesson learned.

      I gotta wake up much earlier in the day to front run the obvious Tim Dunn comments coming on Delta posts.

    4. Tim Dunn Diamond

      or you can drop the mindset that I or anyone is going to say something that is true whether you like it or not.

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Lance Guest

I'd prefer that DL stay away from Boeing planes at this point. We've seen story after story about shoddy workmanship and engineering out of Boeing. Like the author, I consider DL's large Airbus fleet to be a strategic advantage. Living in a DL fortress hub, their fleet decision matters a lot here.

5
RF Guest

I'd rather fly Airbus. Hopefully Delta is just using this to negotiate better pricing with Airbus. Boeing needs to be reorganized.

4
Eric Guest

Please don't. I live in Seattle and for now the most important reason I choose Delta over Alaska is Delta doesn't have any 737MAX

2
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