May 14 (UPI) -- Delta Air Lines announced Thursday it will retire its fleet of Boeing 777s by the end of the year due to the impact of the coronavirus on the aviation industry.
Delta operates nearly 20 of the wide-body aircraft, mostly for longer flights overseas, and the model has been a part of its global fleet for more than two decades.
"We're making strategic, cost-effective changes to our fleet to respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic while also ensuring Delta is well-positioned for the recovery on the backside of the crisis," Delta CEO Gil West said in a statement.
"The 777 has been a reliable part of Delta's success since it joined the fleet in 1999 and because of its unique operating characteristics, opened new non-stop, ultra-long-haul markets that only it could fly at that time."
Delta said last month it will speed up the removal of MD-88 and MD-90 aircraft in June to reduce operating costs. More than 650 mainline and regional Delta planes have sat idle during the pandemic.
Delta said, however, it will continue to fly long-haul Airbus A350-900s because they use less fuel than the 777, which was introduced in 1995 as a more fuel-efficient alternative to the 747.
Delta said the 777 has flown dozens of trips from the United States to Germany and Asia during the pandemic to deliver mail to U.S. troops and deliver medical supplies.