This morning, Delta Airlines officially announced an agreement to purchase up to 200 A321neos from Airbus. Delta will take the first delivery of 100 jets in 2020 and has an option for an additional 100. This is a direct hit to Airbus’ arch rival Boeing.
Airbus makes most of the planes in Hamburg, Germany but has opened a manufacturing plant in Mobile, Alabama where spokespersons say the majority of the 100 new aircraft will be assembled.
Delta and Boeing have almost incited an international trade war over the Bombardier C Series, with Boeing accusing Bombardier of selling the planes to Delta for suspiciously low prices. The Department of Commerce put a recommendation in place that would require a whopping 300% tariff on the imports. In what may have been a move to avoid the tariff, Airbus opened the Alabama assembly lines.
Airbus says it has plans to expand manufacturing at the Alabama plant beyond the four planes currently made there each year. The Canadian government and Bombardier have denied being involved in unfair trade practices.
It is probably not a coincidence that Delta made today’s announcement to purchase the A321neos from Airbus just days after Canada backed out of a deal with Boeing to buy F/A-18 Super Hornets. Canada instead inked a deal with Australia to buy used fighter jets.
The new A321neo has 197 seats and provides an option for a larger single-aisle airplane that can be flown on both short international flights and domestic routes. Atlanta-based Delta will be retiring part of its aging fleet which consists of some McDonnel Douglas MD-88s from the 1980s. The A321neos consume 40% less fuel than the older aircraft.