• Delta Air Lines is the only major US carrier not investing in Boom Supersonic Overture jets or an eVTOL aircraft.
  • CEO Ed Bastian told Fox Business that he has “a lot more questions than answers yet,” about Overture.
  • Travel analyst Henry Harteveldt told Insider Delta could buy the aircraft if it sees them fit into its business strategy.

Major US carriers such as American Airlines and United Airlines are betting on the aircraft of the future, such as supersonic jets and electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, but one carrier has yet to make any investments.

On Tuesday, American Airlines announced an order for 20 Boom Supersonic Overture jets, with an option for 40 more. The acquisition puts the Texas-based carrier on track to become the largest operator of the ultrafast jet.

United Airlines is the other US carrier with interest in the Overture, having placed an order for 15, with an option for another 35, in June 2021.

Meanwhile, both major carriers have also invested in electric aircraft, particularly eVTOLs.

American recently placed a pre-order for 250 of Vertical Aerospace’s VX4 flying taxis, while United has put down $10 million for 100 of Archer Aviation’s “Midnight” eVTOLs. United has also invested in Heart Aerospace’s ES-19 electric airplanes.

While American and United are signing deals with startups that promise a new future, Delta Air Lines is the only major US carrier not investing in any. That might suggest Delta has a different vision for its future fleet, but Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, says that may not be the case.

Instead, he told Insider he gives Delta “credit” for taking their time to make decisions.

“There’s an opportunity cost to an airline when they buy airplanes, and it doesn’t matter what kind of airplane because there’s only so much money a carrier has available to invest,” he said. “Airlines want to invest wisely to get the best possible return, so I don’t see any problem with Delta choosing not to order Overture or eVTOL.”

There is skepticism about Boom’s Overture aircraft

An overhead view of the Boom Supersonic Overture.

Boom Supersonic Overture.

Supersonic Boom

According to Harteveldt, Delta could very well decide to buy a supersonic plane or an electric plane in the future, but they want to ensure that the investment fits its business model and network.

“As far as Boom goes, there’s a lot of skepticism within the aviation industry,” he said. “At the moment, there is no engine.”

Delta CEO Ed Bastian confirmed his skepticism about the plane to Fox Business on Tuesday, saying it “still has a lot more questions than answers.”

“Until we’re sure we can generate a credible return on the aircraft, we’re not investing here,” he said.

Delta’s Boeing 757-200s may have another 10 to 20 years left in them

Delta Boeing 757.

Delta Boeing 757.

Thiago B Trevisan/Shutterstock

Harteveldt explained that while Delta has no orders for Overture or eVTOL, they are making decisions that will keep its current fleet flying longer.

Specifically, the carrier is retrofitting its Boeing 737-800, Boeing 737-900ER and Boeing 757-200 aircraft with Split Scimitar Winglets manufactured by Seattle-based Aviation Partners Boeing to reduce carbon emissions.

Harteveldt says the inclusion of the 757 is particularly surprising.

“The 757 is a great airplane, but it’s no longer in production and there’s a lot of curiosity about the future of the airplane,” he said. “But it’s clear that the aircraft is playing an important role for Delta, and they’ve found a way to keep them flying for another 10 to 20 years.

“They may not be the greenest planes, as the engines are not as fuel efficient as some of the newer generations, but Delta is keeping dozens of 757s out of the landfill,” Harteveldt continued.

Delta should not buy certain airplanes just because they are its competitors

It’s still possible we’ll see a Delta order for an eVTOL or Overture in the future, Harteveldt said, saying that if Delta deems one of its business strategies appropriate, it will order it. But he stressed that the carrier “shouldn’t feel compelled to order the plane just because other airlines are doing it.”

What matters to Delta is that it finds the aircraft that makes sense for it from a business standpoint, from a route and network standpoint, and if it makes money for the company and attracts more customers,” he said. “The race has just begun. . .”

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