To say Delta’s pilot demand projections are difficult to project is an understatement. So the best way to look at this projection is as a “possible outcome”, that does it’s best to fit the curve of pilot staffing to what Delta management has been forecasting with regards to that staffing. Fleet projections are a whole other topic, but since these models build most of their pilot demand calculations off of fleet changes the forecast does its best to guess a fleet projection profile that matches what the company is saying about staffing.

So what do we know?

  • The MD88 and MD90 fleet are retired in June (this is about 100 aircraft from late last year)
  • 52 of the 717’s are currently parked. (The model estimates the equivalent of 45 will remain parked throughout next year and then come back)
  • Delta has some very new aircraft and a majority of relatively old aircraft. The average age is 14.8 years the second oldest fleet in the industry not far behind United. This will be an opportunity to refresh and simplify its fleet.
  • The 777-200 aircraft will be retired (18 aircraft)
  • The A320-200 is one of the oldest fleets (24.8 years) in the Delta fleet. Older than the MD90’s and the B757/B767 fleets. Airbus aircraft are not known to do well as they age, and it is possible some of this fleet will be retired. The entire A320 fleet (62 aircraft) is currently parked. It should be worth noting- At Delta every fleet that is being completely parked is being retired permanently, the Airbus A320 may be the one exception… maybe.
  • The B757/767 fleets are at (22.8 years)

Some Assumptions

  • In order to place the fleet curve close to the forecasted staffing curve, the model assumes the A320-200 aircraft will not come back.
  • It assumes all aircraft orders will be placed on hold throughout the next year until demand merits their return.
  • It assumes half of the B757/767 fleet will be retired permanently throughout the next two years.
  • During the recovery period in 2022 and 2023 the model projects the airline onboarding a net 50 aircraft per year, which equates to a little less than 10-8% growth per year.
  • It does not compensate for possible pilot early outs.
Delta Air Lines Pilot Demand Projection

Some final thoughts. While the model may look grim there is a glimmer of hope. If there is a furlough it will not be very long (12 to 24 months), the number of pilots retiring simply won’t allow for that to be the case. On the contrary, Delta may find themselves significantly behind the “power curve” if they furlough too many, and then proceed to recover flying while dealing with the largest pilot retirement wave in their history. The pilot onboarding numbers in that scenario will be nothing like Delta training has ever seen, which bodes well for pilots during that time.

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