Delta announces a huge order for an aircraft that Boeing has threatened not to build

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After two or three years of rumors, Delta has used the Farnborough International Airshow to finally announce that it plans to throw Boeing a lifeline by ordering up to 130 of its 737 MAX aircraft. As with most aircraft orders that get announced at airshows, this order may or may not be fulfilled in the way that it’s currently being presented but because this order involves the MAX 10, there’s actually an outside chance that the order will not be fulfilled at all.

Delta’s Boeing 737-10 MAX order

Delta has said that it has placed an order for 100 Boeing 737-10 MAX aircraft and that it has an option for 30 more with deliveries expected to commence in 2025.

The 737-10 is the largest aircraft in the MAX family and Delta has already confirmed the cabin layout that it will use onboard:

  • 20 First Class seats
  • 33 Delta Comfort+ seats
  • 129 Main Cabin seats

That’s a total of 182 seats throughout the aircraft.

According to the airline…

“Customers will experience the Boeing Sky Interior, highlighted by modern sculpted sidewalls and window reveals, with in-flight entertainment and power ports in every seat; high-speed satellite Wi-Fi throughout the aircraft; and on-demand video content available through Delta Studio. The cabin will also feature LED lighting that enhances the aircraft’s sense of spaciousness and large pivoting overhead bins.”

The 737-10 is expected to have a range of up to 3,300nm and with Delta planning to deploy the aircraft to its “core hubs” in New York, Boston, Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle, and Los Angeles, there’s every chance that it may appear on some of Delta’s routes between the East Coast and Western Europe, on some of its routes to South America, as well as on its routes between the West Coast and Hawaii.

a map of the world
This GCM map shows where an aircraft with a range of 3,300nm could operate to/from if based at New York JFK. Note: headwinds may shorten this range.

The 737-10 MAX is being purchased to replace some of Delta’s older narrowbody aircraft (its A320s and B757s aircraft have average ages of ~ 25 years) and is expected to offer fuel savings of up to 30% when compared to the outgoing aircraft.

The problem

The key thing to remember here is that this is a Boeing aircraft that’s being discussed and when it comes to Boeing aircraft, there’s almost always an issue lurking on the sidelines. The 737-10 MAX is no different.

Boeing is a very, very messed up corporation – its reputation is in tatters and its leadership team appears to be trying to win some kind of “who can be more incompetent” competition – and as things stand, the 737-10 MAX hasn’t been certified as an airworthy aircraft.

In fact, Boeing has recently thrown a temper tantrum worthy of a 2-year-old and threatened not to build the 737-10 MAX at all if the FAA doesn’t bow to its wishes and speed up the aircraft’s certification – a particularly stupid thing to say considering two of its 737-8 MAX aircraft fell out of the sky thanks to a massively botched certification process.

In reality, this is just grandstanding by Boeing and the fact is that the 737-10 MAX will almost certainly be built.

Boeing can’t afford to cede yet more ground to Airbus (whose executives must be laughing as they have never laughed before at Boeing’s staggering ability to keep shooting itself in the foot) and a lot of lawmakers need Boeing to keep employment levels steady in their districts – never underestimate the desperate lengths a lawmaker will go to when it comes to clinging on to power – so the 737-10 MAX project will go ahead.

Bottom line

Delta has announced that it plans to purchase up to 130 Boeing 737-10 MAX aircraft as it looks to continue refreshing its narrowbody fleet.

There’s no doubt that with confidence in Boeing as low as it is and with the disgraceful failures of the MAX program still weighing around Boeing’s neck, Delta has picked up these aircraft at a very good price. What it has also done is send out a message to Airbus that it’s happy to look elsewhere as it regenerates its fleet and that’s likely to bode well for future negotiations.

Delta is the ultimate opportunist airline (it’s a bit like Ryanair in that regard) and this deal has all the hallmarks of opportunism splattered all over it – in one fell swoop, this deal has allowed Delta to snap up a bargain and to keep another major supplier in check so I suspect that Ed Bastian is a very happy man right now.


  1. Started with what appeared to be a Delta Aijnes press release, quickly turned into a trash Boeing session, offering that Boeing will never deliver on said order then swung back and smacked Delta with an “opportunist” accusation for grabbing a bargain from Boeing with that aircraft they are never gonna deliver.

    If it ain’t gonna get delivered, then it ain’t much of a bargain!

    And why wouldn’t Bastian gloat and brag about getting a deal for his shareholders?

    • Where did I say that “Boeing will never deliver on said order”? Did you actually read what was written or did you just rush to comment?

      What part of “In reality, this is just grandstanding by Boeing and the fact is that the 737-10 MAX will almost certainly be built.” and “so the 737-10 MAX project will go ahead” are you struggling to understand?

      I have no problem with those who post comments challenging what I write, but for the love of god have the good grace to criticize what is written and not something that you’ve made up.

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