Airbus Wins $4.3 Billion Delta Order for Single-Aisle A321s

  • Planemaker's largest narrow-body model beats out Boeing
  • Purchase follows U.S. carrier's $5.6 billion Bombardier deal

Airbus Group SE won an order for 37 A321 single-aisle jetliners from Delta Air Lines Inc. valued at $4.3 billion at list prices, consolidating the European planemaker’s role as a major supplier to the U.S. carrier.

The A321s will replace older-generation jets including smaller Boeing Co. MD-88s, Atlanta-based Delta said in a statement Friday. The airline had already ordered 45 A321s from Airbus in two batches, the last in June 2014, and the new planes will be delivered concurrently with those aircraft.

Boeing has been losing out to Airbus in the largest narrow-body jet category after ending production of its 757 more than a decade ago. The U.S. company is contemplating development of an all-new model as the A321 and updated A321neo, seating 180 to 240 passengers, win more orders than its largest 737.

Airbus sales chief John Leahy said the A321’s capacity and range make it ideally suited to flying within North America, or on routes across the Atlantic from the eastern U.S. when fitted with an extra fuel tank. JetBlue Airways Corp. said Tuesday it was “very seriously” considering the long-range A321LR model.

Bombardier Deal

Delta, which ordered the so-called classic version of the A321 rather than the Neo, or new engine option, is rebuilding its narrow-body fleet as low oil prices spur record earnings. Bombardier Inc. also this week benefited from the plan with a deal from the airline for 75 smaller C Series jets that provides the Canadian planemaker with a much-needed boost for the beleaguered project.

Delta’s incoming Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian, who steps up to the role from president next month, told reporters after revealing the A321 deal that Boeing “couldn’t match” what Airbus and Bombardier were able to offer in terms of its narrow-body needs, without being more specific. 

Shaun Londono, Delta product manager for the A321, said the decision to buy more of the Airbus jets reflects a need for “more density,” adding that they’ll complement its fleet of smaller A319s and A320s. The carrier’s MD-88s seat 149 people, while the A321s -- the first of which from one of the earlier orders will enter service Monday -- will be fitted out for 192, according to its website.

Airbus secured a $14 billion Delta contract for 25 A350-900s wide-body jetliners and the same number of updated A330neos in late 2014 after winning out in contests with Boeing.

The European company revealed the A321 order after announcing Thursday that it had secured a deal to supply China Eastern Airlines Corp. with 20 A350-900s. It also said today that Philippine Airlines Inc. has signed a purchase agreement for six A350-900s, sealing a deal announced in February.

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