Delta Air Lines Inc. is sidestepping millions of dollars in U.S. tariffs on European jetliners by initially routing them far outside the country to such places as Amsterdam, Tokyo and El Salvador.
The U.S. carrier has taken delivery of seven European-built Airbus SE planes since President Donald Trump’s levies took effect in October 2019. Rather than flying them home as it had in the past, Delta has based the aircraft overseas. The decision, coupled with the definition of new planes in the tariff rules, has kept the jets from being considered imports even though some of them regularly enter the U.S.
Avoiding the tariffs has saved Delta, Airbus’s biggest U.S. airline customer, precious cash while customs records show that rival carriers have been charged the duties. Every dollar counts for an industry struggling to cut costs amid a collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Like other major U.S. carriers, Delta has received billions of dollars in government aid while parking planes, reducing flights and trimming jobs as airlines steel themselves for a long slump.
“We have made the decision not to import any new aircraft from Europe while these tariffs are in effect,” Delta said in a statement to Bloomberg News. “Instead, we have opted to use the new aircraft exclusively for international service, which does not require importation.”
In the case of a new A321, Delta avoided tariffs by not importing it to the U.S.