Should Delta Air Lines Invest In Keeping Its Boeing 717 Fleet Flying?

Plenty of airlines are retiring their older aircraft in favor of newer, more fuel-efficient planes. This helps the carriers to keep maintenance and fuel-related costs at a minimum while, sometimes, providing a better experience on board too. Although Delta seems to buck that trend, it has recently been retiring older aircraft. However, there is one aircraft in Delta’s fleet that is both aging and could use an upgrade: the Boeing 717.

Delta 717
Delta will keep their 717s for the next ten years with a little upgrade. Photo: Delta

Simple Flying reached out to Delta amid reports that Delta would retain its 717s and upgrade the interiors. However, Delta denied the claims and offered Simple Flying the following statement:

While we’re always evaluating how we can enhance the experience for our customers and employees across our fleet, no decisions have been made about adding 717 aircraft in-flight entertainment seatback screens nor extending or shortening the length of time they will remain in operation in our fleet.

The history of Delta’s 717s

These planes first went to AirTran before Southwest acquired that carrier. Southwest found that operating a single type of aircraft worked well for them, and that type was the Boeing 737. So, they decided not to operate the 717s and, instead, Delta leased them.

AirTran 717 and Southwest
Delta’s 717 came from AirTran after Southwest acquired them. Photo: redlegsfan21 via Wikimedia Commons

The 717 is a good short-haul workhorse. With over 90 in service, these aircraft work well as air shuttles between major cities, without causing overcapacity. Delta outfits their 717s with only 110 seats spread across 12 First Class, 20 Comfort+, and 78 Main Cabin seats.

Should Delta fly the 717 for a longer time?

These 717s are aging. Most of them were delivered in the late 1990s and early 2000s, so most are in the 20-year range in terms of operational age. This is a significant age for a short-haul aircraft. Although there are Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s that are also around this age, some of them are being cycled through replacement.

Should Delta Air Lines Invest In Keeping Its Boeing 717 Fleet Flying?
Delta’s 717s are getting pretty old. Photo: formulanone via Wikimedia Commons

Boeing does not have a true 717 replacement. The 737 MAX, aside from being grounded, is too big. However, Bombardier (and later Airbus) did have a solution. Delta decided to order Airbus A220s which are the perfect size to replace the 717.  

But, if Delta were to operate the 717 for a longer period of time, there is one feature that would likely be a worthwhile investment that gets passengers onboard.

An upgrade on the inside

Delta has been a fan of seatback screens on its planes, and this tactic has helped it to win over passengers. Most of Delta’s newer aircraft have seatback screens, however, the 717s do not.

Delta has made a big push in seatback entertainment for passengers. It is an amenity that many travelers, including myself, value. During meal services, it is nice to have some entertainment without shuffling around to fit the meal tray and a tablet or laptop on the same tray table.

Delta 717 interior
Delta’s 717s currently do not have seatback screens. Photo: Beyond My Ken via Wikimedia Commons

If Delta were to keep its 717s, it would serve them well to retrofit them with a more modern interior. If possible, larger overhead bins and seatback entertainment would go a long way. In fact, these aircraft could then be a better choice for passengers over some newer aircraft that lack these amenities.

Do you think Delta should keep their 717s? Are you a fan of the Boeing 717? Let us know in the comments!