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Delta has one of the oldest fleets of planes among U.S. carriers

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer
A passenger boards his Delta Airlines flight at the airport in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., January 12, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Delta Airlines (DAL), which reported strong second-quarter earnings on Thursday, has one of the oldest fleets of planes among U.S. carriers.

In an SEC filing last year, the company revealed that the average age of its fleet of planes was 16.7 years. That means Delta has the second-oldest fleet compared to other major U.S. airlines, according to analysis of public securities filings as well as AirFleet.com, a website that compiles data on civilian aircraft.

The oldest was Allegiant Airlines (ALGT), at 17 years, according to AirFleet.com.

Allegiant Airlines: 17 years
Delta Airlines: 16.7 years
United Airlines: 14.3 years
Hawaiian Airlines: 10.8 years
Southwest Airlines: 11 years
American Airlines: 10.1 years
JetBlue: 9.2 years
Alaska Airlines: 7.4 years
Spirit Airlines: 5.1 years
Frontier Airlines: 5 years

(Note: These numbers came from the airlines’ SEC 10-K filings for 2017, with the exception of Allegiant, Frontier, and Hawaiian Airlines. Allegiant’s and Hawaiian’s 10-K filings did not contain average ages for their planes, and Frontier is not publicly traded, so those numbers came from Airfleet.com.)

When reached for comment on the latest figures, Allegiant said that as of July 2018, its average aircraft age was 16.5 years. Delta said that as of March 2018, its fleet was 16.6 years old, making its planes roughly the same age as Allegiant’s.

All the airlines have a combination of Airbus, Boeing and/or Embraer planes.

Planes generally retire at 20-30 years, according to travel advocacy group Airlines for America (A4A).

The range refers to the “useful life” of a passenger aircraft, which is affected by economic conditions, fuel costs, an airline’s overall fleet strategy and the amount of time it takes to obtain a suitable replacement aircraft from the manufacturers.

A Delta Air Lines flight takes off from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Refreshing Delta

To be sure, many airlines update their older fleets regularly. Delta unveiled the first of its retrofitted Boeing 777 jets in June, revealing that it intended to retrofit it entire fleet of 18 Boeing 777 jets with new cabin interiors by the end of 2019.

According to Delta’s 10-K filing for 2017, eight planes were on 18.1 years old on average, and 10 were 8.8 years old.

The retrofitting was aimed to improve fuel efficiency by adding more seats. The retrofitted 777s will be configured with 296 seats — 28 business class suites, 48 premium and 220 economy.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian had also placed an order in December with Airbus, and Bombardier in June to replace some of its older planes.

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