Delta Celebrates 90 Years Of Serving Atlanta

It is hard to imagine Delta Air Lines not being based out of Atlanta, Georgia. The carrier’s livery can be seen all over Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. After building a strong link together for several decades, this week marks 90 years since Delta first started passenger services to the city.

Delta Atlanta
This month marks a massive milestone for Delta and its central hub. Photo: Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport

The first step

Despite the strong relationship between the airline and the airport, Atlanta wasn’t always home to the United States outfit. According to the Delta Flight Museum, the operator first entered the city on June 12th, 1930.

Over the next few days, test runs were conducted to ensure that the launch of passenger operations in the area was done right. Subsequently, on June 18th, regular service formally began.

The initial schedule saw flights leave from Atlanta daily at 08:00 and 17:00. The Travel Air monoplanes would head for Dallas, Texas, via Birmingham, Alabama. The cost of a ticket on one of these services would start from $9.80 ($151.84 today). The Travel Air S-6000-B was a high wing, six seat, single-engine unit. At the time, it was being promoted as the limousine of the air due to its classy build. 

Chief Pilot Pat Higgins with new Travel Air
Delta chief pilot Pat Higgins stands proud next to one of the airline’s new Travel Air units. Photo: Delta Flight Museum

Growing pains

While Delta was making significant progress, the US economy was going through a challenging period during the turn of the 1930s. With the Great Depression making its way through the Deep South, Delta suspended its passenger airline operations in October 1930.

Soon after, it also sold its Travel Air aircraft as a consequence of the economic downturn. At the end of that year, it returned to its roots to concentrate on crop-dusting tasks.

Four years later, business activity had started to pick up once again and Delta began its first mail service with its new Stinson Model T planes. With confidence growing, passenger services would resume on August 5th. This moment also marked the first time that the name Delta Air Lines would be seen on the livery of the operator’s aircraft.

For the remainder of the decade, the company would see its operations steadily grow. At this time, Delta was operating out of Monroe, Louisiana. It chose the Mississippi Delta region as its base due to its centralized location within the southern states that had a greater need for the firm offerings. The region’s name is the inspiration behind the title of the airline.

Monroe Delta
Monroe played an important part in Delta’s growth before the carrier relocated to Atlanta. Photo: Delta Flight Museum

Tying the knot

However, in 1941, the carrier made the leap to transfer its headquarters to Atlanta. It announced plans to relocate its fleet of 21-passenger Douglas DC-3 airliners at the start of that year. Delta identified the city as the best place to operate its new strategy. 

Moreover, the area was growing economically with the presence of key companies such as Coca-Cola. With most of Delta’s initial passengers being people in business looking to hop between meetings quickly, it made sense to switch to Atlanta.

Subsequently, according to GeorgiaInfo, the city and the operator signed a deal, which saw Atlanta contribute $50,000 ($767,646 today) for construction of a new hangar and office building for Delta. Additionally, the carrier agreed to pay the remaining building costs and then hold a 20-year lease for the new facilities.

To support the project, Delta secured a loan of $500,000 ($7.67 million today) from the Trust Company of Georgia. This funding allowed the airline to make the relocation public knowledge. It didn’t take long for construction to start, and Delta entirely made the switch on March 1st, 1941.

Atlanta Airport
Atlanta has proven to be an important economic hub in the United States. Photo: Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport

A significant presence

Over the next few decades, the partnership transformed the city into a key connecting hub. In 2011, Delta and Atlanta both celebrated 70 years of the location being the airline’s home.

In an official press release, authorities highlighted how much of an economic force the company is for Georgia. It is the state’s biggest employer, and its presence plays a crucial role in attracting new investment and jobs. Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed especially highlighted Delta’s importance in the area.

“Delta Air Lines and Atlanta have a unique partnership that has been inextricably linked to the success and prosperity of our city and our airport for nearly three quarters of a century,” Reed said, as per the press release.

“The strong relationships among companies such as Delta, state and local elected officials and civic organizations are what make Atlanta not only a global, dynamic city but a great place to live and do business.”

Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport is likely to remain as a reliable partner of Delta’s for many years to come. Photo: Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Here’s to the future

Next year will mark 80 years of Delta being Atlanta’s hometown airline. With such an impact left across Georgia and it’s neighboring states, the relationship is set to last for many more decades.

Altogether, even though Delta’s first passenger flights were not from Atlanta, it only took it a year after launching these services to venture to the city. It saw high hopes there early on and took a big step to relocate.

This switch worked out for the pair as it will soon be a century since they began operations together. Delta has come a long way since these early days. It now serves up to over 240 destinations in over 50 countries, across six continents. The city of Atlanta has undoubtedly played a large hand in the airline’s success over the years.

Simple Flying reached out to Delta for comment on this milestone. We will update the article with any further announcements.

What are your thoughts on Delta’s long-term relationship with Atlanta? Have you had any unique experiences at the hub over the years? Let us know what you think of the history of the partnership in the comment section.