United Snaps Up New Planes, Delta Makes Do With Old

A passenger looks out towards a Delta Air Lines plane at San Francisco International Airport Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

It was a big shopping week in Paris for United Airlines: 35 new Airbus A350s and 20 787s from Boeing. Its rival, Delta Air Lines, didn’t buy a single plane during the air show and has been flying some jets that date to the early 1980s. The starkly differing strategies at the two largest U.S. airlines—a big-time fleet refresher vs. a penny pincher intent on wringing service out of old planes—present a very clear case study. Shareholders and customers are noticing, and so far they don’t appear to prefer that new-airplane smell.

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