Delta Air Lines has placed a firm order for 50 new Airbus widebodies, 25 A350-900s and 25 A330-900neos, with deliveries of the A350-900s to the U.S. carrier beginning in 2017 and of the A330-900neos in 2019.
Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines will power the Airbus A330-900neo jets and Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines will power the Airbus A350-900 widebodies: Rolls-Royce is the sole-source engine supplier for both aircraft models.
November 20 reports from several U.S. media sources suggest Airbus won Delta Air Lines’ big widebody order, for which Boeing competed intensely with its 787-9 jet, primarily because it was able to offer the major U.S. airline early delivery positions for the A350 XWB jets.
If true, this could represent a classic case of a gray cloud having a silver lining. Earlier this year, Emirates, an early customer for the Airbus A350 XWB, announced it had canceled its firm order for 70 A350 XWBs, citing revised thinking about its medium-term capacity needs.
(Industry insiders suggested, however, that Tim Clark, Emirates’ president and one of the airline industry’s top influences on aircraft-manufacturer thinking, was privately angry Airbus had not warned him in advance that it was going to announce a change in the planned specification of the A350-1000 model, a change not to Emirates’ liking.)
Emirates’ decision to drop its big A350 XWB order is reportedly the reason why Airbus has plenty of early A350 XWB delivery slots available for Delta Air Lines, which says it wants the very-long-range A350-900 for its transpacific routes.
Delta says it wants the Airbus A330-900neo jets for medium-haul routes on its growing transatlantic network. Delta is already a substantial operator of the Airbus A330-300, from which the A330-900neo will be developed, and in September 2013 added an order for another 10 new A330-300s.
These 10 aircraft are to be of a new, 242-tonne, higher-gross-weight, longer-range version of the A330-300.
“When the most successful U.S. airline today – a company that has flown passengers around the world for more than 80 years, has 80-thousand employees and 165 million customers in a year – says ‘yes we want 50 more of your widebody planes’, you can’t debate the fact that it is a massive endorsement of your product line,” commented John Leahy, Airbus’ chief operating officer – customers.
Delta Air Lines currently flies both Airbus single-aisle and widebody aircraft. Its Airbus fleet includes 57 A319s and 69 A320s, as well as 11 A330-200s and 21 A330-300s.
In addition to its 50-aircraft order of November 20 and its order for 10 A330-300s from September 2013, Delta also has 45 Airbus A321 jets on firm order, bringing its total Airbus backlog to 105 aircraft.
At the end of October 2014, the Airbus A350 XWB family had won orders for 750 aircraft from 39 customers worldwide. This total does not include Delta’s new order.
The Airbus A330 family has now attracted orders for nearly 1,400 aircraft, not including the commitments for nearly 150 A330neo-family jets announced to date.
More than 1,100 A330-family aircraft are now flying with more than 100 operators worldwide.
The A330neo family is to comprised of two versions – the A330-800neo and the longer-fuselage A330-900neo – and will have more seat capacity than the comparable current-generation A330 models, as well as new cabin features.
All A330neos will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, the Trent 7000 featuring a 112-inch diameter fan and offering a 10:1 bypass ratio.