The Boeing 757: Its Role In Delta’s Operations Over The Years

Last week, we covered why Delta Air Lines took on the Boeing 757. Since 1984, the narrowbody has been an important member of the Atlanta-based carrier’s fleet. Here is a look at its role over the years.

Delta 757
The Boeing 757 has proven to be a trusted workhorse for Delta for 36 years. Photo: Getty Images

Exciting specifications

The original Boeing 757-200 units that Delta took on came new technology when it came to their wings and engines to give the best fuel mileage of any standard-body airliner. In the years leading up to the acquisition, on a 500-mile flight, the jet provided approximately 45% better fuel efficiency than the Boeing 727 it replaced.

Moreover, it had more seats than its forerunner, holding 187 of them compared to the 727’s 148. Therefore, the plane was ready to be deployed on Delta’s short to medium-haul routes in the years to come. With the jet age further intensifying in the 1980s, the firm had to ensure that it had the right arsenal to compete heading into the 1990s and the new millennium.

According to The New York Times, Delta’s president, David C. Garrett Jr., recently said the following about the prospects of the 757 after the company placed orders for it.

“We intend to maintain an aggressively competitive posture. Delta people will have at their disposal the most modern, cost-efficient, customer-pleasing aircraft available.”

Delta was already flying with the Boeing 767 before taking on the 757 and the jets shared common systems. The Delta Flight Museum highlights how the pair had the same advanced wing technology, air conditioning packs, and auxiliary power unit (APU).

The two planes also had similar flight deck designs. Therefore the FAA allowed pilots who flew the 767 to also fly the 757 without undertaking extra training.

Subsequently, Delta became the first airline to fly both of these jets. The operator also made history in 1984, when two of its pilots conducted a demonstration of common-type pilot rating.

Delta 757 Classic
A 757 being delivered with Delta’s classic livery. Photo: Delta Flight Museum

Flying success

The first 757 delivered to Delta was Ship 602, and it arrived in Georgia on November 5th, 1984. The first Delta passenger service with the type was on December 1st of that year. This was an operation from Atlanta, Georgia, to Dayton, Ohio, via Birmingham, Alabama.

Another landmark moment occurred in 1992. This was when Delta received the 500th 757 that was manufactured by Boeing. In 1996, Delta acquired four Boeing 757-212 aircraft. These arrived with registration numbers N750AT, N751AT, N752AT, and N757A. All of these units were built in 1984 and were delivered to Singapore Airlines, American Trans Air.

Delta also took on a 757-26D, which came with registration number N900PC. This plane arrived delivered on January 21st, 1997, and was previously flown by Shanghai Airlines.

On Song

In April 2003, Delta commenced operations with Song, a low-cost carrier that focused on routes across the US mainland and the Caribbean. The 757 was perfect for these services, and Delta performed these flights with specially-configured-200s.

There was one class on these aircraft, and passengers were seated with leather seats and were entertained with personal IFE. Services with Song peaked in 2005, and it was flying 48 757s to 16 destinations.

Along with five Florida cities, destinations included:

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Hartford, Connecticut
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Las Vegas, California
  • New York, California
  • Seattle, Washington
  • San Francisco, California
  • Nassau, Bahamas,
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Oranjestad, Aruba
Song 757
Following JetBlue’s rise, there was a lot of potential for Song in the low-cost market. Photo: Getty Images

Even though Song performer over 200 flights a day, it was swiftly folded into Delta’s domestic operations at the end of 2005. The last Song-operated trip was on April 30th, 2006.

Subsequently, all of the LCC’s single class 757 jets were converted two-class setups. Additionally, the IFE systems and leather seats were expanded across other planes in Delta’s fleet.

The former Song units took on several of Delta’s transcontinental services towards the end of 2006, and the last 757 with Song branding on its livery was redecorated in January 2008. This was also after Delta became the largest 757 operator in the world. In July 2007, American Airlines retired its former TWA units, allowing its rival to take the lead when it came to 757 numbers.

757 Pink Delta
Delta has experimented with several special liveries for the 757 over the years. Photo: Delta Flight Museum

Covering more ground

In the same month, Delta began leasing extended-range twin-engine (ETOPS) 757-200s. These models could fly up to 4,520 miles. They could also be in the air for approximately 9 hours and 15 minutes. Furthermore, these had winglets to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency, along with range. These abilities brought even greater prospects for the 757 as they could now serve further destinations in Latin America and across the Atlantic Ocean.

The 17 757-231 and -2Q8 models arrived from American Airlines and were delivered to Delta in stages between July 2007 and March 2008. They began service with 22 first class and 158 economy class seats. However, the interiors were soon upgraded to hold 16 BusinessElite seats and 158 slimline seats in coach.

In 2008, Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines announced a merger agreement. Following this move, Delta acquired 45 Boeing 757-251s. The firm also took on 16 of the 757-351 variant, which was its first -300 model that it operated.

Still serving

Today, Delta holds 127 757 planes within its fleet, and only 16 of these are -300s. The -200s have played an essential part in Delta’s operations, even in recent times. They can serve 168 passengers on key transcontinental and international flights and have 16 lie-flat Delta One seats in a 2-2 configuration. Notably, this is the only jet in Delta’s holdings that has these lie-flat seats.

Delta One cabin
Passengers can fly in comfort in Delta’s 757 cabins. Photo: Jay Singh – Simple Flying

Altogether, Delta has held 205 757 aircraft since it first commenced operations with the type. There have been a small number of transatlantic routes conducted with the narrowbody, such as the 3,658 mile trip to Malaga. However, over the decades, the key performances with the plane have been on short and medium-haul routes across North America.

What are your thoughts about Delta Air Lines’ Boeing 757 aircraft? Have you had any fond memories on the plane over the years? Let us know what you think of the jet in the comment section.