Delta A220 Flights Could be Delayed by Federal Government Shutdown
The ongoing federal government shutdown could delay the inaugural flights of Delta’s new Airbus A220 later this month.
Delta has been trumpeting this brand new plane for months, and it’s scheduled to finally take flight Jan. 31 on a few routes. But there’s just one problem: Delta hasn’t been certified to fly it yet. And depending on how long the government shutdown drags on, that certification might not come in time.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Assistant Administrator Gregory Martin confirmed on Thursday that the plane has not yet been added to Delta’s operating certificate. What’s more, the FAA employees who oversee that final process have been furloughed during the shutdown.
“Adding aircraft to an operating certificate is not an activity that takes place during a furlough,” Martin said in an email.
So it’s as simple as this: Without final inspections and testing flights, the A220 can’t enter commercial service. And two weeks into the shutdown, there’s no sign of a funding agreement coming together anytime soon.
If the shutdown stretches much farther into late January, it’s virtually impossible for these launch flights to go out as scheduled.
After declining to respond for several days, Delta did not deny the impending issues in a statement.
“Delta continues to monitor the situation and will work with the FAA to ensure that the A220 is fully certified when it enters our fleet. No customer disruption or impact to schedules are expected,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
As it stands, Delta’s schedules still show the A220 on its first flights on Jan. 31: New York City-LaGuardia (LGA) to Boston (BOS) and LGA to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW).
First, let’s make something clear: This potential issue with a new aircraft pales in comparison to other impacts of the shutdown. Thousands of federal employees have been furloughed and others are working without pay. That includes TSA employees, who are working one of the highest-pressure jobs in the aviation industry with no guarantee of when their next paycheck might come.
But Delta has been touting the launch of the A220 as a gamechanger for months. It’s one of the latest and greatest planes on the market, with more spacious seats than competing airlines offer on similar domestic flights. Delta is set to be the first U.S. airline to fly these new planes, and among the first in the world.
So after all this hype, any delay in launching these flights would be a blow to the airline. Delta has 75 A220s on order, and plans to aggressively expand their service this year.
There are three weeks to go until the inaugural flights, and three weeks is a lifetime in politics. Still, there’s no sign of the shutdown coming to a close anytime soon as President Donald Trump and Democrats square off over funding for a wall on the southern border.
Parsing Delta’s statement, it’s clear this possibility is on their radar. The airline is hoping to work it out and get their new plane certified in time, but could swap in an older plane on those routes if need be.
This wouldn’t be the first headache for travelers wrought by the government shutdown. Applications for Global Entry, the fast pass through immigration and customs, have been put on hold. Enrollment centers where travelers go for a final interview have been closed during the shutdown.
The fate of Delta’s inaugural flights for its newest plane rests in Washington, D.C. And that’s something no company wants to hear.
We’re scheduled to check out the A220 on one of its first flights on Jan. 31. We are likely not alone in hoping this gets wrapped up and sorted out sooner rather than later.
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