In a move that probably won’t disappoint frequent customers of Delta Air Lines, the company has announced its intention to retire all of its Boeing 717s, a derivative of the old DC9-40, as well as the carrier’s fleet of Boeing 767-300ER (extended range) aircraft. Also to be phased out are Delta’s cramped and unpopular Bombardier CRJ-200 50-seat aircraft which are flown by regional connection partners, primarily to feed Delta’s hub operations.
While the removal of the 717 and 767 aircraft from its fleet won’t be completed until 2025, it clearly indicates Delta’s commitment to a newer, more efficient and simplified fleet and markedly more comfortable experience for its customers. The CRJ-200s will be completely gone from the schedule by the end of 2023.
Delta currently flies 91 Boeing 717-200s, 88 of which were obtained from Southwest Airlines after it purchased AirTran Airways in 2013. Southwest has always flown a complete Boeing 737 fleet of various models, so while it wanted AirTran’s route system, it never intended to fly the Boeing 717s that came along as part of the deal. Interestingly, Delta was the customer-in-waiting for the 717s even though AirTran, and now Southwest, is its primary competitor at its largest hub at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.
Delta has already received 31 of 95 brand new Airbus A220-100 aircraft it ordered which are being utilized on mid-range domestic routes, but with a range of over 3,500 miles it can be even fly coast-to-coast. The aircraft features seat-back entertainment in both cabins (there was no entertainment on the 717), the widest economy seats in its class (18.5″), easy on the eyes LED lighting, and oversized cabin windows. The configuration is 2-2 in first class and 2-3 in Economy-Comfort and Economy classes.
As for the 767-300ER aircraft, the Atlanta-based carrier has worked them hard for many years, principally flying international routes across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as on select routes to South America. While the aircraft all feature flat-lying Delta One seats in the front cabin and adequate seatback entertainment systems in the economy cabin, yours truly can attest to the viewing screens being much smaller than on newer aircraft, including Delta’s A330 and A350 fleet. However, until a flight last year from Atlanta (ATL) to Madrid, Spain (MAD) on Delta, the shortcomings of the 767 wasn’t very noticeable until we settled in on a KLM 787 for the return trip to Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP). It was like night and day, so the carrier’s move toward modernizing its fleet will be a welcome upgrade for its customers, and I’m sure it’s cockpit and cabin crews, as well.
Now if we can get COVID19 under control allowing travelers to get out of town, I’m sure that we’re all more than ready to take to the skies again.