Delta chief executive touts MD-80 cost advantage

Washington DC
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Delta chief executive Richard Anderson has reiterated his bullish view that the carrier's large fleet of ageing Boeing MD-80s retain a cost advantage over newer Boeing 737-800s that is largely driven by lower ownership costs.

Anderson has been bullish on the former McDonnell Douglas twinjet for some time, and previously the Delta boss said the airline was planning to add two MD-90s in the last quarter of 2009.

Flightglobal's ACAS database shows Delta operates 113 MD-80s and 17 MD-90s. Its 737-800 fleet comprises 71 aircraft.

"MD-80s still even at pretty high fuel prices start the month out at no debt," said Anderson at Delta's recent investor day. "A 737-800 costs about $350,000 to $375,000 a month. So on the first day of the month it is $375,000 behind just on ownership."

delta md-80 goose@airspace/flightglobal
 © Goose@AirSpace/Flightglobal

The carrier's chief also claims that the maintenance costs on the MD-80 are lower than the 737-800 and crew costs are not quite as high. "So the economics on the MD-80 are still good at $90 fuel prices because of basic economics, and we are regularly sort of looking at that side by side," he says.

Delta and Northwest Airlines merged in 2008 and unlike some of its US counterparts, the combined entity does not have plans to dedicate a huge capital outlay for aircraft in the near term. Executives believe that Delta's fleet of 1,400 aircraft, which includes the Northwest fleet and all the regional jets operating under Delta Connection contracts, meet the needs of its network.

Plans are under way to phase out the older McDonnell Douglas DC-9s still in operation at Northwest. Anderson says they will leave the fleet as they approach heavy maintenance checks. The ACAS database shows Northwest operates 69 DC-9-30/40/50s.