Delta Air Lines’ first A350 rolled out of the paint shop a couple days ago with delivery anticipated in the next few weeks. The company’s public statement, “Ship 3501 is expected to enter service this fall on trans-Pacific routes” does not provide much detail. We’ve known for a while that the hub at Detroit is where the A350s will be based, replacing the 747-400s that the company is retiring this year. But specifics beyond that have been hard to nail down.
— Aviation Toulouse (@Frenchpainter) June 13, 2017
I’ve now heard a reasonably strong rumor for when the new aircraft will enter commercial service: Look for the A350 to fly from DTW to Tokyo-Narita on 30 October 2017. It is still loaded in the GDS as a 777 right now but I’m being told that internal systems reflect the A350 operating that trip. It helps that the last weekend in October is typically when international operations switch between winter and summer schedules and this timing mostly lines up with that.
Of course, that’s a long lead time to get to commercial operations, assuming the delivery happens in July as expected. The plane will go into the shop immediately after delivery to have the Gogo 2Ku inflight internet hardware installed before flying over to the USA for the crew training to begin, but that shouldn’t take too long. A full three months for training and induction seems long to me. And there’s always the chance for “surprise and delight” flights or domestic swaps or additional scheduling changes between now and then. But this one seems to be in the system, and that’s the first I’ve heard of such.
While it is not necessarily common for a new type to enter service on a long-haul route it is also not unheard of. Delta can perform the necessary familiarization and proving as crew training flights as well. This is what Lufthansa did when inducting the 747-8i into its fleet, for example.
Header image of Delta A350 post-paint courtesy of the airline
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