How Delta Air Lines Ended Up Flying The Boeing 757-300

The Boeing 757-300 is only flown by Delta Air Lines and United Airlines in the United States. Delta Air Lines flies 16 of the type, but it never ordered the aircraft outright. Instead, like most of its Airbus aircraft, Delta inherited the type from its merger with Northwest Airlines. Here’s how Delta ended up flying the Boeing 757-300.

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Delta Air Lines has a fleet of 16 Boeing 757-300s. Photo: Getty Images

Northwest Airlines takes the Boeing 757-300

In the early 2000s, Northwest Airlines had a problem. According to the Northwest Airlines History Center, the carrier had a significant fleet of aging DC-10 aircraft, and they needed a new aircraft to operate high-demand domestic routes and another to operate long-haul international routes.

In January 2001, Northwest Airlines placed an order for 20 Boeing 757-300 aircraft. Alongside this, NWA also ordered 24 Airbus A330s in its fleet renewal plan.

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Northwest Airlines placed its first order for the Boeing 757-300 in 2001. Photo: Eddie Maloney via Flickr

In September of that year, the 9/11 attacks left air travel reeling, and Northwest Airlines did not need all that capacity. So, the airline trimmed its order book down to 16 Boeing 757-300s. The first of these arrived in mid-2002, with deliveries concluding in 2003.

Northwest Airlines loved the Boeing 757. It worked well on domestic routes, especially to the West Coast and Hawaii. The 757-300 also made their way down to popular vacation destinations, such as Florida and Las Vegas. However, Northwest did not get a chance to place a new Boeing 757-300 order for more aircraft before Boeing shut down production of the type.

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The 757-300s did receive NWA’s final livery. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Delta and Northwest merge

Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines officially merged just under eight years after Northwest Airlines placed its first order for the Boeing 757-300.

When Delta acquired Northwest’s fleet, the carrier had plenty of inefficiencies. Northwest’s fleet had a lot of Airbus models, which Delta notably did not fly. In addition, Northwest also had an old fleet of DC-9 aircraft.

Delta immediately moved to retire the aging DC-9s but kept the bulk of the Northwest Airlines fleet. This saw the 757-300s repainted in Delta’s livery, where they all currently still fly.

Delta’s Boeing 757-300s

Delta’s 16 Boeing 757-300s are an average of just under 18 years old at this point. The carrier has not outlined plans to retire them, given how there is no perfect replacement for the aircraft. For those new to the 757-300s, the airplane can seem like the limousine of narrowbody jet planes.

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Delta flies the Boeing 757-300 on high-profile domestic routes. Photo: Eddie Maloney via Flickr

Delta’s 757-300s seat a total of 234 passengers. This includes a large recliner-style first class cabin of 24 seats, 32 seats in extra-legroom economy, and 178 seats in standard economy. All seats feature access to on-demand seatback entertainment. First class is in a 2-2 configuration, while coach is in a 3-3 configuration.

Delta has kept its Boeing 757-300s flying domestic legs. This includes hub-to-hub routes, such as from Minneapolis or Atlanta to Seattle, routes to Hawaii out of Los Angeles, West Coast flights from Minneapolis, Florida flights out of Minneapolis and Atlanta, and many others.

These are routes where the Boeing 757-300 serves well. From hubs, Delta can get a lot of connecting feed to keep this large aircraft filled. On these high-demand routes, Delta can offer plenty of additional capacity compared to existing narrowbodies operating these routes.

Are you a fan of the Boeing 757-300? Let us know in the comments!