Delta's Fleet Expansion....I'm confused?!

Has Delta Lost their mind?

On July 9th Delta sent a press release which outlined their fleet plan with the acquisition of 88 new B717 jets from AirTran between 2013 and 2015 and the introduction of the B737-900ER starting in 2013. In this new release Delta made two comments that left me shaking my head from disbelief.

“The Boeing 717s will primarily replace small 50-seat regional jets on a capacity-neutral basis. The 110-seat aircraft will feature new, fully upgraded interiors, with 12 First Class seats, 15 Economy Comfort seats and in-flight WiFi throughout the aircraft. Seats in Economy will be arranged in a 2-3 configuration with just one middle seat per row.”

First off can anyone tell me how a 88, 110 seat aircraft will replace a 50-seat regional jet on a capacity-neutral basis? First off, each 717 offers twice the number of seats as a smaller regional jet!

Delta Connection offers the follow 50 seater regional jets

48 ERJ-124 (31 seats x 24 = 1488 seats)

258 CRJ-200 (50 seats x 24 = 12900 seats)

If Delta was to retire EVERY 50 seat jet they had they would be losing ~4700 seats from their planes! Furthermore, if a route currently has a 50 seat plane and it's not profitable, how will flying a 110 seat jet make it profitable? I for one is lost my Delta’s logical here and I am going to guess that not all 200+ 50 seat regional jets will be removed from the Delta connect brand. and the 717 will start flying CRJ-900 routes, the CRJ-900 will fly CRJ-700 routes, and the 700 series will take over the smaller routes. Just a guess though......

Next in the same press release Delta commented on the soon to be newly acquired B737-900ER, the largest of the 737 family.

Delta will begin taking delivery next year of new fuel-efficient state-of-the-art Boeing 737-900ER jets, which will primarily replace older Boeing 757 and 767 and Airbus A320 aircraft. 

The B737-900ER jet in a two class configuration only sits 180 passengers! The B737-900ER will easily replace Delta’s 757-200s that only seat 166-184 passengers, but the 737-900ER range of 3200 nm doesn’t meet the 757-200 at 3900 nm! Not to mention the capacity of this jet is not where NEAR the capacity or the range of the 757-300 or even the much larger B767 that seat 250+ passengers and fly 3850nm-6385nm depending on the series! Finally the A320, well this jut actually easily replaces the A320 in all areas so I won’t go into details.

Delta fleet optimization defiantly has me baffled! The B737-900er will be a fine replacement for the 757-200 on routes like JFK-LAX, SEA-HNL, and shorter domestic flights; and will actually increase capacity on routes that are currently served by the A320. However if Delta is looking for range, this new aircraft isn’t there and in NO WAY will be able to replace the B767 like they stated in their press release on ANY route.

Either way, more mainline jets and less regional jets mean less gate side baggage check, more comfortable cabins, and a better passenger experience for everyone. The 717 and the 737’s will be a welcome addition to the Delta line up and are a great addition to the $3 billion in investment in improving the customer experience on the ground and in the air from airport expansions, skyclub remodeling, cabins enhancements and more!

But if someone could break it down for me, how is this going to work?


Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter


It is capacity neutral because they are pulling more 50 seaters out than they are putting 100 seaters in. Total ASMs can remain relatively constant while flying fewer total flights.

As for the 739ERs, they are replacing domestic operations. Not all that hard to see how that works. The efficiency of the new planes more than makes up for needing a couple extra frequencies to replace the 767 capacity.

Rocky July 12, 2012 at 04:07 pm

@Wandering Aramean: Thanks for the input/clarification.

My thought though becomes if Delta reduces frequencies on some routes, they may loose the business travelers to other airlines that offer more frequencies that suits the need of the biz travelers. Those are my biggest concerns. If a route goes from 2x per day to 1x per day, people may opt for other airlines

However, I did not think about adding frequencies on the 767 routes, Hopefully they will be able to do this, however on some more congested routes/airports this could not work Clearly they will move airplanes around, but I still don't see the 737-900er making up for the 767 in capacity, unless they add 2 frequencies but then also up the available seats, which would mean it would need to be a growing market for them. Yet again in the end, the 737 does not have the range of the 767 so it won't work completely.

Nic July 12, 2012 at 08:44 pm

There is not so much competition on these routes. Southwest doesn't have Biz seats.

Sanjeev M July 13, 2012 at 01:41 pm

Nothing is going from 2x to 1x. For example, ATL-ROA is 6 daily. Putting a 717 RON overnight is better than two CRJ's.

Rocky July 13, 2012 at 01:52 pm

@ Sanjeev Yes if delta drops the 5pm flight and keeps the later flight or vice versa on this route it would make sense. Still a decrease in frequencies, but on some routes like this one i think that would be more than alright. I just hope the smaller cities with only 2x a day service don't loose anything. That was all I was getting at, not to mention if ALL 50 seat jets are pulled there will be a large decrease in ASM

Dave September 29, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Will the Delta 717s be repainted to the current livery and recieve new stremline seats?

Blash May 4, 2013 at 11:57 am

The 767-300's dont go very far. you are thinking the 767-300ER they go that distance but the 767-300 doesn't. The 757-300's are staying and same with the 757-200 ETOPS

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.