Delta Air Lines to retire Boeing 777 fleet as coronavirus crushes demand

Delta Air Lines said Thursday that it will retire its fleet of Boeing 777 aircraft and remove them from service by the end of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on travel demand.

The air carrier's decision to retire the Boeing jets, which entered service with the airline in 1999 and expanded to 18 aircraft, comes shortly after it announced that it would retire its fleet of aging single-aisle MD-88 and MD-90 aircraft in June.

"We're making strategic, cost-effective changes to our fleet to respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic while also ensuring Delta is well-positioned for the recovery on the backside of the crisis," Delta Chief Operating Officer Gil West said in a statement.

Delta Airlines Boeing 777-200LR aircraft seen at Shanghai

Delta Airlines Boeing 777-200LR aircraft seen at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. (Photo by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The airline said in a regulatory filing on Thursday that the moves were made to "better align our network with lower passenger demand" and "streamline and modernize our fleet, and generate cost savings." It also said the move to retire the 777 and MD-88 and MD-90 aircraft will result in second quarter non-cash impairment charges of $1.4 billion to $1.7 billion, before tax.

More than 650 of the carrier's mainline and regional aircraft have been parked due to the virus' impact on the air travel industry, which has been decimated since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting stay-at-home orders issued by state and local governments.

Nearly 177,000 passengers were screened at TSA checkpoints across the country on Wednesday, compared to more than 2.3 million a year ago – a more than 92% decrease.

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