Delta Boosts MAX 10 Confidence With Order For Up To 130 Aircraft

A rendering of the 737-10 in Delta Air Lines livery.
Credit: Boeing

Delta Air Lines jump-started the 2022 Farnborough Airshow with an order for 100 Boeing 737-10s, plus 30 options, as well as interior upgrade work on 29 737-900ERs.

The order is hugely significant in two ways. First, it marks a relationship restoration between Delta and Boeing as the Atlanta-based airline, the only US major to have not ordered the MAX until this week. Second, the -10 has yet to be certified and some question the program’s prospects. The Delta order is a strong show of confidence by a highly respected airline.

“This is a delicate moment for us,” Delta Air Lines Fleet and TechOps supply chain SVP Mahendra Nair said at the Monday order announcement. “It is an inflection point in our relationship with Boeing.”

Delta has not ordered new Boeing aircraft in over a decade. In 2017, Boeing filed a complaint over Delta’s order for Bombardier CSeries aircraft, accusing the Canadian manufacturer of price-dumping. This led to US-imposed tariffs which that tripled the cost of each aircraft.

Nair said the MAX negotiations have been underway with Boeing since 2020 and Delta’s chief pilot has made several in-person visits to the manufacturer. Boeing has been very transparent, allowing Delta to see “anything and everything.”

An important part of the deal for Delta is that -10s share cockpit commonality with the carrier’s current fleet of next-generation 737s so that its pilots can fly both. That puts pressure on Boeing to get the -10 certified to the same specification as other MAX variants, an issue still being worked on by Boeing and FAA.

Nair was asked if he was concerned about -10 certification. “I personally wasn’t, for the simple reason that we have been talking to Boeing all along. We knew exactly where they were, where the milestones were in terms of the certification and what they need to do,” he said.

However, it is specifically the MAX 10 that Delta wants, so he said a “rethink” may be needed if pilot commonality becomes an issue.

“I would even urge everybody—Congress and the FAA—to consider the fact that commonality is the bellwether for us. I mean, that commonality will help us incorporate this aircraft into our fleet,” Nair said.

He added that the largest MAX variant fits “very well” with Delta’s network, with a good range from the airline’s major hubs. The MAX also “fits exactly” with Delta’s A321neo plans.

In tandem, CFM announced Delta’s order for 200 Leap 1B engines, which are the exclusive powerplant for all MAXs, along with additional spare engines and an option to purchase up to 60 more engines. Delta currently operates more than 440 CFM-powered aircraft.

On July 18, Delta also announced a contract with Boeing Global Services to fully reconfigure the interiors of 29 737-900ERs. These aircraft, which Nair described as “gently used,” will be redelivered to Delta for the summer 2025 season and will continue to operate “in typical Delta fashion” for another 20-25 years.

The firm-ordered -10s are scheduled for delivery from 2025 to 2029, with a timeline of 2030-2031 for the options. The aircraft will be configured with 29% premium seats.

Delta will build its 737 fleet to around 300 aircraft, retiring older variants. Around 160 of Delta’s fleet are “around the 25-year mark,” giving flexibility for extensions or retirements, but Nair said the carrier is being conservative with its planning. Delta also still operates Boeing 717s, which are likely to remain in service until 2029-2031.

Victoria Moores

Victoria Moores joined Air Transport World as our London-based European Editor/Bureau Chief on 18 June 2012. Victoria has nearly 20 years’ aviation industry experience, spanning airline ground operations, analytical, journalism and communications roles.