The Boeing 797 or the Boeing NMA (New midsize aircraft) is concept aircraft proposed by Boeing to compete with the A321 and as a replacement for the B757.
Before we dive into Delta and the upcoming Boeing 797, let’s first discuss the history of the Delta fleet. Until recently, the airline was a staunch supporter of American-built aircraft.
Until the merger of Delta and Northwest in 2008, the carrier only operated Boeing and Douglas aircraft, with the exception of a brief period in which it operated the Airbus A310. This marked a significant shift in the relationship between Delta and the European jet manufacturer over time, Delta grew fond of the A320 and A330, and piece by piece Delta gradually transformed its fleet from American to European aircraft, the 737 MAX debacle and constant delays in the production of Boeing just accelerated this shift.
Boeing has lost market share, but on the surface, it doesn’t seem like a big deal because they still make up the majority of Delta’s current fleet. However, when we look at Delta’s future fleet, the outlook for Boeing looks much bleaker. Over the past ten years, Delta hasn’t ordered a single Boeing jet while signing up for over 300 airbuses.
Additionally, Delta has been reducing the size of its B737 fleet, but something which really caught everyone off guard was when Delta retired its B777s a few years ago.
Given this pattern of behaviour, it’s obvious that Delta is shifting toward an all-Airbus future. However, despite this significant shift, the airline stubbornly refuses to get rid of one Boeing jet: the 757. It is very clear that Delta absolutely adores this aircraft.
The average age of a delta 757 is 25 years, yet the airline has been hesitant to phase them out because they are perhaps its most significant aircraft. The 757 is really important to Delta as it is a narrow body with an exceptional range which gives Delta much-needed flexibility in scheduling. Even now, its closest replacements the A321-XLR and the B787-MAX10 capacity to the 757, but their range falls well short of what the 757 has to offer. This explains the elongated service span of the aircraft with Delta airlines.
Why doesn’t Delta get the A321, why only the 797?
Although Airbus already has a perfect 757 replacement in the form of A321xlr and competitors like United and American Airlines have already committed to the type, but Delta doesn’t seem that interested in the plane. Frankly, we’re not sure why but this strange situation offers a glimmer of hope to Boeing, giving it one last chance to save its relationship with Delta if Boeing could.
The problem is that Boeing has dragged its feet ever since in 2020 Boeing CEO David calhoun said early 797 designs were being scrapped. If only Boeing could get its act together and build its own 757 replacement, ostensibly called the 797, it would have a real chance of rebuilding the partnership. In fact, Delta leadership seems eagerly on board with this idea.
“I do anticipate they will do it. I hope they will do it,” Bastian told Bloomberg. “We have a significant need between the retirements of the 757 and 767 fleets. That’s almost 200 aircraft over the next decade.”
Despite Boeing not prioritising the 797, Delta has shown confidence in Boeing by purchasing a number of B737-MAX aircraft.
This purchase will not only keep Delta’s engineers and mechanics up to date on the latest Boeing technology but will also serve as a temporary replacement for Delta’s ageing 757 fleet until the 797 eventually rolls out.