In Boston, Delta Rolls Out Its New Domestic ‘Cornerstone’ Airbus A321 In Move To Dominate Logan

Today Delta Air Lines
will scale up its battle to become Boston Logan’s number one carrier, bringing in the new Airbus A321neo airplane that symbolizes its domestic future as well as adding two transatlantic destinations, Athens and Tel Aviv.

On Friday morning, Delta Flight 1202 to San Francisco marked the first flight by the carrier’s new Airbus A321neo, delivered in April. “This airplane is the cornerstone of the fleet for the next 20 to 30 years,” said Mauricio Parise, Delta vice president of brand experience. “Some airlines fly this airplane to Europe, but we don’t—we’re trying to up the (domestic) game.”

At 4:10 p.m., Delta inaugurates Boston-Tel Aviv service and at 8:05 p.m. Delta inaugurates Boston-Athens. They will bring the number of international destinations from Boston this summer to ten, including Amsterdam, Cancun, Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London Heathrow, Paris and Rome,

After putting the A321neo on Boston-San Francisco, Delta will gradually add the new aircraft on Boston-West Coast destinations including San Diego and Seattle, as well as Denver.

“It is a statement that we are committed to Boston,” said Charlie Schewe, Delta’s Boston-based sales director for the East region. “It shows we are putting our best product in Boston.”

Delta initially ordered 100 A321neo aircraft in 2018, but gradually raised the order to 155. It has taken delivery of two and expects to take about two dozen this year. The neo has more efficient Pratt & Whitney engines – “neo” stands for “new engine option” — and 194 seats including 20 in first with 36-inch pitch, 42 in Delta Comfort with 33-inch pitch and 132 in coach with 31-inch pitch.

Briefing a half dozen reporters on the ferry flight from Atlanta to Boston on Wednesday, Parise said that U.S. carriers in general have not upgraded domestic first class in decades. Delta upgrades include roomy bathroom in all classes: winged flaps jutting out from each first-class seat, which provide a feeling of privacy; spacious dividers between first class seats and large screens at each seat. Also, spending money on large screens in all classes means Delta will ensure that passengers have easy access to earphones, Parise said.

The challenge on privacy, Parise said is that some passengers want nothing to do with the passenger next to them, but others are traveling with companions. Another fact here is that Airbus narrowbody aircraft, at every airline, are wider and roomier than Boeing
aircraft. The A321 offers a mid-cabin bathroom on American as well as Delta.

Delta’s growth in Boston has been dramatic in that it seemed to occur almost quietly and in the midst of a pandemic.

It first became apparent in October 2021, during the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association in Boston. That was the month when Delta Logan departures first surpassed JetBlue’s, with Delta at 3,140, JetBlue at 3,074 and American at 2,016, according to Cirium.

This year, with winter schedules in effect and Delta cautious on growth, JetBlue has been slightly ahead in every month. This summer, Delta and JetBlue will each operate about 150 peak daily departures from Logan, while American will operate about 50.

In May, according to Cirium, JetBlue remains Logan’s top carrier, with 4,006 monthly departures compared to 3,955 for Delta and 2,585 for American. In terms of May capacity, JetBlue has 643 million available seat miles, while Delta has 609 million and American has 372 million, Cirium said.

The added international flying will likely give Delta an edge. “We’ve been bigger than JetBlue in different ways, (and) we’re solidly in that position now, and we’re not going to stop,” Schewe said on Wednesday.

The question exists whether JetBlue’s focus on a merger with unwilling Spirit could impact its position at Logan, which recently has benefitted from the Northeast Alliance. The alliance enables American and JetBlue to coordinate their schedules at Logan and New York airports. At Logan, passengers can move between American international flights and JetBlue domestic flights.

The alliance was unveiled in July 2020, early in the pandemic. The transportation department approved, but in September 2020 the justice department said it was opposed. In February 2022, Spirit and Frontier announced plans to merge. In April, JetBlue launched its bid for Spirit.

JetBlue remains firmly committed to the Northeast Alliance, At the same time, it seems excessively challenging to undertake a merger while the justice department is challenging the alliance, which in some ways resembles a merger. Spirit CEO Ted Christie said recently that JetBlue is “a suitor that is being actively sued by the Department of Justice,” adding, “It strikes us as odd that they think they could close on a transaction with us.”

In a briefing paper, JetBlue challenged the suggestion that the alliance presents an obstacle to a merger with Spirit. Rather, JetBlue says, the Northeast Alliance “creates a compelling third competitor in a region dominated by Delta and United and has already started delivering benefits to consumers.”