A Delta Air Lines plane at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
Delta Air Lines is buying 100 Boeing 737 Max 10 planes, the first major order for new aircraft from the US manufacturer in more than a decade.
The contract has an option for another 30 aircraft. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2025.
The new order is good news for Boeing as Airbus has recently won high-profile orders with China’s state-owned airlines. Boeing lamented the trade tensions when that order was announced.
Delta said Monday the order will modernize its narrow-body fleet as the carrier looks to capitalize on a return to travel after a record slowdown caused by the Covid pandemic. It said the MAX planes will be 20%-30% more fuel efficient than the jetliners they will replace.
Atlanta-based Delta is the only one of the top four U.S. carriers that has not ordered new Boeing jets in recent years, favoring Airbus as it improves both its narrow-body and long-range wide-body fleets. Delta retired older Boeing 777s during the pandemic and Airbus A350s are taking more deliveries of twin-aisle planes.
The 737 Max was grounded for at least 18 months after the second of two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people. The US lifted the grounding in November 2020. During that time Delta’s competitors faced capacity constraints as deliveries of the new Max were halted.
The Max 10 model is the largest of the narrow-body Max family and does not yet have official approval. Boeing hopes to receive approval for the aircraft before the end of the year. Regulations adopted in the wake of the two accidents require new aircraft to be equipped with cockpit warning systems.
Delta’s CEO, Ed Bastian, previously hinted at an order for the Max plane. Asked at a recent investor conference about possible orders for narrow-body planes, Bastian said: “We’re trying to get a deal done with Boeing to do it … hopefully we’ll be able to figure it out.”
Boeing shares rose 3% in premarket trading, while Delta shares rose 1.6%.
Most of Delta’s new orders in recent years have come from Airbus in Europe.
In 2017, Delta was in the middle of a trade dispute between Boeing and Canada’s Bombardier, the then-producer of the C-Series narrow-body planes, which Delta ordered. Boeing accused Bombardier of underselling the planes, a case it ultimately lost. Airbus later adopted the program, renaming the planes the A220.