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Delta Likely to Keep Middle Seats Empty, Will Retire Some 737s, A320s, and 767s

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Middle seats on Delta Air Lines flights will probably remain open until the end of 2020 — and possibly into next year.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said as much during this morning’s conference call announcing 2020 Q2 earnings.

The airline will also retire some of its A320s, 767-300ERs, and its (small) fleet of Boeing 737-700s.

Meet in the Middle? Nope.

Delta originally announced middle seats would be blocked on all flights through September 30.

But Mr. Bastian said Delta may extend the policy through at least the rest of this year. He mentioned it may also carry over into 2021. However, no specifics were mentioned and no official announcement was made.

The Main Cabin coach section of a Delta Air Lines 767-300 aircraft, seen prior to an LAX to New York JFK flight.

He said the airline has received considerable feedback about its blocked-middle-seats policy. Mr. Bastian told us that is the number one reason feedback participants chose Delta over carriers.

When asked if the airline is blocking middle seats as a branding or marketing feature, Mr. Bastian solidly refuted that proposition. Rather, he said the policy was made to stress safety, restore consumer confidence, and stay faithful to the Delta brand.

Aircraft Retirements

Delta will retire all its Boeing 737-700s this year.

According to Wikipedia, the airline has only ten of the aircraft. (I personally flew them only a couple of times, most notably between Burbank at Atlanta before that service was suspended.) Based on some quick research I conducted before posting this article, the only 737-700 route I saw currently operated by Delta is an ATL to STT (and vice versa).

Plus, the airline will pare down its fleets of Airbus A320 and Boeing 767-300ER planes, too.

A Delta Air Lines 767-300 (tail number N177DN) departs from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). (Photo: ©iStock.com/Angel Di Bilio)
A Delta Air Lines 767-300 (tail number N177DN) departs from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). (Photo: ©iStock.com/Angel Di Bilio)

Mr. Bastian said it’s a little premature to know about pilot retraining on other aircraft.

Other Tidbits from the Call

A few other morsels I found interesting during this morning’s call:

  • Travel bottomed in April, with demand at only about 5%.
  • Mr. Bastian said the current customer base consists generally of domestic leisure travelers and those flying for essential reasons.
  • Business travel normally accounts for 50% of Delta’s passengers. Mr. Bastian said the airline hasn’t seen anything “meaningful” yet in terms of current loads helping to reach that number again,
  • In fact, he expressed doubts business travel will ever rebound to 2019 numbers in terms of volume. Mr. Bastian theorizes (just like most of us) that shorter meetings will be relegated to video calls instead of in-person gatherings. But he thinks business travel will remain important for relationship-building or other important meetings.
  • While road warriors seem to grow more confident with flying, Mr. Bastian surmises business travel will be on about a 12-18 month lag, dependent on COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.
  • Delta’s cash burn is down to $27 million a day — which is down from a $100 million per day in March. ($17 million of the burn is attributed to US domestic travel). The C-suite suits credited employees who took unpaid leaves and others who worked reduced hours. (Can you imagine having to chop $73 million a day out of a budget?!)

— Chris

 

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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7 Comments

  1. Has anybody indicated when they might re-institute service to the currently suspended airports?

    • The last I heard — at least in terms of the smaller airport in (or near) major markets — was at least September 2020.

      That being said, I’m not holding my breath I’ll see SkyWest (in Delta paint) and Delta planes soaring overhead into BUR for a while. But I’d love to be wrong on that one.

      • Thanks. I usually fly 30-50 segments per year, and most start or end at ERI. I think United and American are still servicing ERI, so my loyalty might be overridden at some point.

  2. Drew Margulis Reply

    FYI, they have used 737-700s on VPS-ATL a lot lately, especially in summer.

    • I figured the -700s were used on more routes than the STT-ATL trip but they didn’t pop up in my research. Thanks for the data point, Drew!

  3. So glad the MD-88s and MD-90s are gone. Surprised to see the A-320s going before 757s.

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