Delta retiring four 747s as Pacific restructuring continues

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Delta Air Lines will retire four Boeing 747-400s by the end of 2014, as it continues to restructure its Pacific operations around a gateway at Seattle/Tacoma International airport.

The Atlanta-based SkyTeam alliance carrier will retire the aircraft “early” following a decision to reduce planned capacity growth, it says. It will have 12 747-400s in its fleet at the end of the year.

Delta just recently refurbished its 747 fleet, installing new lie-flat business class seats in 2012 and adding global wi-fi to the aircraft.

The airline will make further adjustments to its Pacific schedule, as a result of the aircraft retirements. It will discontinue both the Hong Kong-Tokyo Narita and Manila-Nagoya routes on 26 October, and downgauge Atlanta-Tokyo Narita on 29 September and Los Angeles-Tokyo Narita on 1 October to 291-seat Boeing 777-200s from 376-seat 747-400s.

Delta will also downguage Detroit-Nagoya to a 293-seat Airbus A330-300 from a 747-400 on 26 October.

The carrier says that the aircraft changes are possible by reducing planned capacity growth across the Atlantic.

Delta has been shifting flying away from intra-Asia routes, mostly centred on Tokyo Narita, towards its new Pacific gateway in Seattle since late 2012. Most recently, it launched new nonstop service to Hong Kong and Seoul Incheon from the airport in June.

“In the Pacific, we are running a profitable operation and we'll further restructure our network by better aligning our Tokyo flying and building our US gateway in Seattle,” said Richard Anderson, chief executive of Delta, during an earnings call in July. “These efforts along with the benefits of smaller gauge wide body replacement aircraft which begin delivering in 2015 will drive better returns in the Pacific region.”

He was referring to the 10 A330-300s the airline ordered in 2013 that will be delivered from 2015 to 2017.

Delta has felt pressure on its Pacific routes due to the continuing impact of the Japanese yen devaluation and competitive capacity in the market. Passenger unit revenue fell 3.2% on a 0.7% increase in capacity in the second quarter.

The carrier has not provided updated capacity guidance for its Pacific region with the latest changes.

Delta is not alone in adjusting its intra-Asia network. United Airlines recently announced that it will discontinue flights from Guam to Niigata on 13 December, Hiroshima on 18 December and Okayama on 20 February 2015, and reduce frequency on its Guam-Sapporo and Guam-Tokyo Narita routes from January 2015 to March 2015.