Alabama-Assembled A321s Destined For Delta

By Darren Shannon
Source: AWIN First
September 04, 2013
Credit: Airbus

Delta Air Lines will be one of the first airlines to operate Airbus narrowbodies assembled at the European airframer’s facility in Mobile, Ala. when it starts taking delivery of A321 current engine options in 2016.

The order for 30 A321CEOs, unveiled today, includes three delivery slots in the first quarter of 2016 and 12 more by the end of that year, says Delta. Airbus, separately, notes that “[m]any of Delta’s A321s are expected to be assembled at the brand-new Airbus assembly line in Mobile,” and that the first aircraft from Mobile will roll-out in 2016.

Delta is scheduled to take delivery of all 30 A321CEOs by the end of 2017. Delta’s current Airbus narrowbody fleet, inherited from its 2008 merger with Northwest Airlines, consists of 69 A320-200s with an average age of about 18 years and 57 A319s with an average of 11.4 years in service, according to Delta’s most recent financial regulatory filing.

The carrier has commitments for five A319s and two A320-200s from Northwest’s backlog, but does not say if these will be converted to A321 orders or cancelled. In the early August regulatory filing, Delta said it did not include these commitments in its own backlog “because we have the right to cancel these orders.”

The airline’s new Airbus order also makes it the first operator of the enhanced 242-metric-ton A330-300 widebody, which provides an additional 500 nm range and greater payload than the standard 235-metric-ton variant. Delta has ordered 10 of these enhanced A330s, which will join a fleet of 21 A330-300s and 11 A330-200s, also inherited from the Northwest merger.

Three of the A330-300s are scheduled for delivery in spring 2015, with three more expected by the end of that year. Four more A330-300s are due in 2016 and the final two in 2017.

Delta says the A321s and the new A330s will “expand” or “augment” the carrier’s current fleet, and CEO Richard Anderson in a statement notes that the order “will provide tremendous flexibility for Delta to optimally manage our capacity over the next five years while further improving the flight experience for our customers and returns for our shareholders.”

Anderson, who has adopted a stringent capital expenditure policy at Delta, also notes that the “Airbus agreement is another opportunistic fleet transaction for Delta in which we acquire economically efficient, proven-technology aircraft.” CFO Paul Jacobson adds that “[t]hese Airbus aircraft will generate free cash flow and improve our return on invested capital from the time they enter service.”

The A321s, will be fitted with CFM International CFM56-5Bs from the same family of engines that power Delta’s current Airbus narrowbody fleet. The A330-300s, however, will use General Electric CF6-80E1s rather than the Pratt & Whitney PW4000s on the current A330 widebodies.

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