Delta Air Lines seems to be moving from strength to strength, being named to Fortune’s Most Admired Companies list again in 2016, having an investment-grade rating for debt and returning more than $3 billion in dividends and buybacks to shareholders. Increasingly effective maintenance is an important reason for that success, according to Chief Executive Office Ed Bastian, as it has dramatically increased reliability and thus boosted customer satisfaction.
Chief Operating Officer Gil West notes Delta was number one on DOT’s list of U.S. airlines in completion factor in 11 of 12 months through November 2016. The carrier was also number one in on-time arrivals in ten of those 12 months.
This is a dramatic change in about a half a decade. Delta has reduced its cancellations by two-thirds since 2010 and boosted its on-time arrivals from 59% to 75% over the same period. During the 12 months through November 2016, Delta completed all its flights on 222 days and Delta Connection carriers met the same perfect score on 78 days. United, Southwest and American had only 36, six and five perfect completion days, respectively.
Of course, maintenance is not the only factor in completing flights and doing that on time. But it has been the improvement in maintenance performance that is most impressive. In the six years from 2010 to 2016, maintenance-related cancellations dropped from 5,212 to 123, or 98%, in Delta’s mainline operations. For Delta Connection, maintenance cancellations decreased from 4,338 in 2013 to 656 in 2015, a drop of 85%.
What is Delta Tech Ops doing right? A lot of things, according to West. He attributes the gains to better MRO execution, new technologies, better MRO infrastructure, better logistics, Big Data and predictive maintenance. On the last item, Delta has collaborated with Airbus to improve maintenance on A330s.