Rumor: Delta Acquiring Used Airbus A350-900s

Rumor: Delta Acquiring Used Airbus A350-900s

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Update: This order has now been confirmed, as Delta is acquiring 36 used aircraft.

While this still hasn’t been officially confirmed, it’s looking increasingly likely that there’s truth to this rumor, and that an announcement may be coming soon.

Is Delta taking over former LATAM A350-900s?

There has been a thread on airliners.net for about a week about how Delta is allegedly considering acquiring some used Airbus A350s and Boeing 737s. There are plenty of 737s on the market, so there don’t seem to be many specific details there as of now. However, the A350 situation is a bit clearer.

South American mega-airline LATAM is currently in bankruptcy protection, and the airline group recently made the decision to retire its Airbus A350-900 fleet. LATAM is the first airline in the world to retire its entire A350 fleet. The airline is instead focusing on its 787s, even though the A350s are only an average of a few years old.

There were a lot of questions about which airline would try to acquire these A350s, and it looks like we now have a clue. The planespotters.net airframe tracker indicates that the LATAM A350 with the registration code PR-XTK is being taken over by Delta, and will have the registration code N575DZ. While this isn’t an official source, I’ve always found it to be quite accurate.

Assuming this is accurate, the next question is how many additional A350s Delta could be acquiring (Delta already has a total of 40 A350s on order). LATAM had up to 13 Airbus A350-900s in its fleet, and it’s being suggested that on Monday Delta reserved a total of 13 tail numbers in the range of N570DZ to N582DZ. Keep in mind the “confirmed” A350 going to Delta is in that range, so this is making a lot of sense at this point.

It remains to be seen whether that means Delta will actually take over all 13 A350s, or…

Could Delta’s Airbus A350 fleet grow significantly?

The irony to Delta getting more A350s

On the surface it might sound surprising that Delta would acquire used A350s:

Now, just months after retiring the 777 fleet and spending $62 million to avoid taking over four A350s, Delta wants to go on a used plane shopping spree? This might not be as outlandish as it sounds:

  • I would imagine that Delta would get a heck of a deal on these planes, given that the leasing companies are probably desperate to find new customers
  • As long as Delta strongly believes it will stop burning cash, then adding capacity in this way could make sense, especially with favorable terms
  • There is some benefit to fleet commonality, with Delta having just one ultra long range aircraft type, rather than two
  • With airlines not being able to spend money on stock buybacks as a condition of having accepted bailout money, they’re clearly running out of things to spend money on; getting a good deal on A350s seems more prudent to me than spending money on a supersonic plane, or air taxis

Assuming this is all true, I’m curious if Delta will spend tens of millions of dollars reconfiguring these planes with the carrier’s signature cabins, or if the airline will initially just maintain LATAM’s (inferior) interiors. Delta is all about having older planes but making their cabins nice, so I’d guess these planes would be reconfigured, but who knows. Maybe Delta doesn’t want to invest the capital in that right now.

Would these A350s get Delta’s signature interiors?

Bottom line

Rumor has it that Delta will be acquiring some or all of the Airbus A350s that LATAM recently dumped due to its financial situation. It doesn’t seem like this is related to Delta’s ownership stake in LATAM, but rather Delta just sees a great market opportunity here.

While this hasn’t been officially confirmed as of now, we have reason to believe that at least one former LATAM A350 is being transfered to Delta, based on Delta having a new registration associated with this aircraft.

It’s a wild time in the industry — Delta just retired its entire 777 fleet months ago and also spent $62 million to get out of an obligation to buy four A350s, and now it looks like the airline will acquire more A350s. I imagine an announcement will be imminent here…

What do you make of Delta potentially acquiring used A350s?

Conversations (34)
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  1. Mike Guest

    Delta usually knows what it is doing. The pandemic created all kinds of bad situations and good opportunities. This likely the latter

  2. Brick Bradford Guest

    I can't help but believe that Delta planned to do this when they retired their 777's. A similar number, similar size, much more fuel efficient, highly advanced - AND a fantastic bargain to be had. Whoever at Delta concocted this is simply a genius!

  3. Jk Guest

    Delta airlines loves used aircraft. Charge premium prices on used aircraft. I no longer fly Delta...inflated prices...dirty aircraft...nasty cabin service...regrettably I am a million miler.

  4. Kent Guest

    It's difficult to comment without taking a look at their financial report for this year and understanding how the capital expenditures equate against tax rebates and future capital depreciation.

  5. Charles E Janeke Guest

    A lot is being said about (777/787/767/350/330) aircraft (type) EFFICIENCY, however without specificity. On the same token we have (1) block/segment/passenger/mile (aircraft) fuel consumption and (2) passenger/seat/cabin/altitude pressure (passenger) comfort comparables. So we need some (standardized) standard.. starting with CARBON/CO2 production!!

    1. Tim Dunn Gold

      Charles,
      the airline industry produces a lot of data and the government collects alot of it. For people that know how and where to look, there are real insights. Fuel burn by fleet type is provided by every US airline. The latest data is from the 3rd quarter of 2020 which might not be indicative of a normal period because passenger loads have been lighter - but here are a few tidbits.

      The Delta...

      Charles,
      the airline industry produces a lot of data and the government collects alot of it. For people that know how and where to look, there are real insights. Fuel burn by fleet type is provided by every US airline. The latest data is from the 3rd quarter of 2020 which might not be indicative of a normal period because passenger loads have been lighter - but here are a few tidbits.

      The Delta 767-300ER and American and United 787-8s all reported within a percent or two of each other. This is why the 767 has not been grounded by Delta and United due to fuel efficiency but because they are just getting old and too expensive to maintain.

      The Delta A350-900 was reporte.d to burn about 6.3 gallons/seat/hour. In contrast, the nearly identical seating 777-300ER burns about 8.4 gallons/seat/hour.

      The Delta A330-300 burns about 18% less fuel per hour than the American 777-200ER. The Delta A330-900 burns about 11% less than the Delta A330-300. The Delta A330-900 burns a couple percent more than the American and United 787-9.

      On the narrowbody front, the A321 is the most fuel efficient per seat with the MAX versions of the 737 and NEO versions of the 320 family about 10% better than their NG/CEO counterparts.

      All of these numbers are in line with comparisons manufacturers claim and/or industry analysts have calculated elsewhere.

      The most notable fuel burn statistic is that the A220-100 for Delta (the only airline operating it as of the 3rd quarter of 2020) is as efficient per seat as the A321NEO. It also burns less fuel overall than the CRJ-900 and the E175. On a per seat basis, the A220-300 which Delta and JetBlue have on order should be the most fuel efficient domestic aircraft.

      Hope this helps.

  6. Jkjkjk Guest

    Still a shame why delta retires the 9abreast 777. But glad for a350 or a339 addition. Take that anyday over 787 in Y.

  7. JB Guest

    Do these aircraft include the 4 A350's that LATAM leased to Qatar Airways (which were returned at the start of the pandemic) and are now in storage in Brazil?

  8. AAfreq Guest

    I just checked ‘FlightRadar24’ under N575DZ
    And found it listed under Delta…

  9. Reed Guest

    Next time fly Imelda Marcos Airways

  10. John Luffred Guest

    DELTA'S FLEET IS OLD AND OUTDATED!
    767,757 AND EVEN AIRTRAN 717'S
    DELTA HAS NO 787 OR 777.
    DELTA KEEPS ATTEMPTING TO PUT LIPSTICK ON A PIG!

    1. Tim Dunn Gold

      Delta now has the most fuel efficient international fleet among the big 3. The 777-200ER and 300ER are both far less fuel efficient than either the A330, B767 or A350.
      The B787 cabin is narrower than the A350; if American and United only put 8 abreast on their B787s, then that plane would be decent. If you have ever flown on an 9 abreast 787 then you cannot possibly believe it is superior to...

      Delta now has the most fuel efficient international fleet among the big 3. The 777-200ER and 300ER are both far less fuel efficient than either the A330, B767 or A350.
      The B787 cabin is narrower than the A350; if American and United only put 8 abreast on their B787s, then that plane would be decent. If you have ever flown on an 9 abreast 787 then you cannot possibly believe it is superior to the comfort on any aircraft in Delta's international fleet.
      And given that the 717 was used to retire hundreds of 50 passenger regional jets and American and United each have 200 more regional jets in their fleets than Delta, the issue is not 717.
      and Jay, above, Delta has said it is skeptical about the economics of the A321 over the Atlantic.
      You do realize that Airbus has ended production of the A380 and the B747 is done as well? Twin engine aircraft ARE all that airlines worldwide want to fly.

    2. FlyerDon Guest

      Not sure the 767 is more fuel efficient than either 777.

  11. Jay Guest

    I was not wrong Delta and ALL the american airliners are becoming the worst in the world, they are saturated of 737s and 320s, 2 or 3 big jets to fly over the pacific and Atlantic, even the 787s are small, they are waiting for the 321 NEOXR in order to send the 777s and 747s to the graveyard. Not buying used aircraft from Brazil and Chile. FFS.

  12. TheBoyWanderz Guest

    I recall hearing that the LATAM A350s did not include some of the more popular "options" like enhanced humidity controls that allow the passenger cabin to mimic lower altitudes...remember this being one of the key benefits promoted with traveling on an A350, so if it is the LATAM jets, hopefully they can "upgrade" some of those features to ensure a consistent customer experience in-flight.

  13. Weymar Osborne Gold

    It'd be fascinating to see cost/benefit analyses on fleet decisions. Sure, 777's are older and thus less efficient to operate, but is it really possible that it is cheaper to retire them entirely and purchase brand-new and like-new A350's? I'd love to see a further breakdown on the decision-making here if anyone's got it. I'm sure Delta has smart people working for them and they ran the numbers and that was what worked out best.

    1. Jkjkjk Guest

      The decision process requires their own data and prediction model. If it’s out in public, they can’t compete with others as the data can give them comparative advantage

  14. Jim Guest

    Given DL's announced intention to retire their 763s by 2025 with no clear replacement in the pipeline, and the general trend of "upgauging," this seems entirely plausible. I imagine they'll officially announce it with their quarterly results next month.

  15. Donna Diamond

    Meanwhile, they’re still operating old, non-retrofitted, klunker 767s as the backbone of their TransAtlantic long haul fleet. It would be great to see those retired.

    1. Tim Dunn Gold

      Delta has more A330s, which are larger, in its fleet than 767-300s.
      The 767-400s just went through cabin upgrades and the 767-300s are next. Not sure what you find as clunky; the only real drawback of the 767 is that new
      I will still happily take a Delta 767 over anyone's 787 in 9 abreast coach or 10 abreast on the 777 which Delta's two largest global competitors operate.

    2. Tim Dunn Gold

      the only real drawback of the 767 is that new suite-type business class seats don't fit well but that is a function of the fuselage width.

    3. Donna Diamond

      That’s a big deal and the reason I no longer fly DL. If you’ve paid for a J seat on a Delta 767 TATL flight you will quickly realize the bad value proposition.

    4. Kaleb_With_A_K Gold

      Indeed. I love Delta's 767 planes with the 2-3-2 seating, 18 inch seats and 31-32 pitch.

  16. Jonathan Guest

    I suspect that the $62 million spent to unwind their initial purchase retirement had less to do with unwinding the deal and more to do with finding a CARES-compliant way for Delta to participate in the recapitalization of LATAM and keep a stake in the reorganized company.

  17. Alex Guest

    Delta has a history of swooping in at the right moment to buy used planes at a discount, so I think this fits pretty well with their plans. I always got the impression that the 772s were retired because for age and efficiency purposes, not because of excess capacity, so this does seem to make sense as travel picks back up.

  18. henry Guest

    wonder if the delta one suites they yanked off the 777's could be installed on the 350s or if the measurements / certification wouldn't allow it

  19. Taylor Guest

    The N-number N575DZ is already showing assigned to an A359 with the MSN 282 (ex LATAM), so I would say this is more than a rumor at this point!

  20. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    Hopefully, any new A350s will be updated to have better lavatory space in business-class (there really aren't enough lavatories now and the ones they have aren't ideal for changing clothes) and maybe, just maybe a 2x3x2 configuration in premium economy. The current 2x4x2 configuration is very cramped, especially the two center seats in 4-seat center section.

  21. Ray Guest

    This is a great strategy in my opinion. So much less material mined from the ground, transported, refined, and then transported again; giving LATAM some cash injection; and a more predictable delivery schedule.

  22. Tim Dunn Gold

    If this all comes to pass and the planes are delivered within a couple years, Delta will have replaced all of its ultra-long haul capacity that was their A350 fleet plus the 10 777LRs when covid started with some growth capacity. The A330-900 has about as much range and is only a little smaller than the 777-200ERs.
    I am sure Delta will change out at least the premium cabins in order to maintain brand...

    If this all comes to pass and the planes are delivered within a couple years, Delta will have replaced all of its ultra-long haul capacity that was their A350 fleet plus the 10 777LRs when covid started with some growth capacity. The A330-900 has about as much range and is only a little smaller than the 777-200ERs.
    I am sure Delta will change out at least the premium cabins in order to maintain brand consistency or at least operate any non-standard A350s on a couple of locked routes. LAX to Australia is carrying very few passengers because of Australia's covid requirements so they could put a couple planes on that until they can get them reconfigured. They do potentially have 18 cabins worth of 777 seats, lavs and galleys; not sure how much of that can be transferred but I am sure there is some. If not, it will take time for suppliers to build new interior fixtures.
    Another consideration is that Delta might be doing this in part to help reduce the loss it suffers on its equity investment in Latam since the damage to the creditors who are taking back the A350s is less.
    With the number of A350s Delta already has on order, this could leave Delta in a few years with a fleet of over 50 of the same model of top of the fleet widebodies, more than it has ever had. Given the operating cost savings the A350 and the A339 has over the B777, this could leave Delta very well positioned for longhaul international growth.

  23. AJO Guest

    PR-XTF flew to VCV as well, so it looks like that frame may also join DL's fleet. See June 21, flight# LA9427

  24. IntlBizTraveler Guest

    I get this may sound hyperbolic, but if Delta doesn’t immediately convert the planes to their own interior their brand reputation is likely to plummet. As an airline built on operational excellence, having someone else’s inferior interior in the sky is a non starter.

    But hey, at least this acquisition wasn’t of Norwegian’s MAXes like some people thought.

    1. Steve Guest

      What makes you think Lantam's interiors are inferior? While I agree there must be consistency with an airlines products, over the years I've found Delta's interior's and product to be inferior. Big time!
      Prime example; their TIRED 767's that fly LAX and SFO to JFK. They don't even rate compared to AA's A321T's.
      Years back when they started flying to London, a sales rep compared them to Swiss. So I gave them a...

      What makes you think Lantam's interiors are inferior? While I agree there must be consistency with an airlines products, over the years I've found Delta's interior's and product to be inferior. Big time!
      Prime example; their TIRED 767's that fly LAX and SFO to JFK. They don't even rate compared to AA's A321T's.
      Years back when they started flying to London, a sales rep compared them to Swiss. So I gave them a try.
      It was more like Swiss cheese with their southern flight attendants trying really hard to be a truly international carrier. While I know they are, I'll stick with the tried and true.

    2. Brick Bradford Guest

      "with their southern flight attendants" - your bigotry is showing.

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Tim Dunn Gold

Delta now has the most fuel efficient international fleet among the big 3. The 777-200ER and 300ER are both far less fuel efficient than either the A330, B767 or A350. The B787 cabin is narrower than the A350; if American and United only put 8 abreast on their B787s, then that plane would be decent. If you have ever flown on an 9 abreast 787 then you cannot possibly believe it is superior to the comfort on any aircraft in Delta's international fleet. And given that the 717 was used to retire hundreds of 50 passenger regional jets and American and United each have 200 more regional jets in their fleets than Delta, the issue is not 717. and Jay, above, Delta has said it is skeptical about the economics of the A321 over the Atlantic. You do realize that Airbus has ended production of the A380 and the B747 is done as well? Twin engine aircraft ARE all that airlines worldwide want to fly.

1
Donna Diamond

That’s a big deal and the reason I no longer fly DL. If you’ve paid for a J seat on a Delta 767 TATL flight you will quickly realize the bad value proposition.

1
Tim Dunn Gold

Delta has more A330s, which are larger, in its fleet than 767-300s. The 767-400s just went through cabin upgrades and the 767-300s are next. Not sure what you find as clunky; the only real drawback of the 767 is that new I will still happily take a Delta 767 over anyone's 787 in 9 abreast coach or 10 abreast on the 777 which Delta's two largest global competitors operate.

1
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