When Will Delta Air Lines Retire Their Boeing 757s?

With over 100 of the type in their fleet, the Boeing 757 is a very important aircraft to Delta Air Lines. Serving high-density short hauls and medium- to long-haul transatlantic services, the 757’s versatility is prized by the carrier. However, these aging aircraft will soon need replacement. As of yet, Delta has not firmly indicated a 757 replacement. Here is a look at the Boeing 757 and Delta Air Lines.

Delta 757
Delta Air Lines operates a significant number of Boeing 757 aircraft. Photo: Delta

Merging with Northwest

The 757 was the only common type between Delta and Northwest. However, Delta only operated the smaller 757-200 prior to the merger. Through the merger, Delta acquired the larger Boeing 757-300. Unlike the 757-200, the longer derivative version is not as versatile and serves high-density routes in the United States.

NWA 757
A Northwest Airlines Boeing 757 with a Delta Connection regional jet in the background. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Delta kept a large number of the 757s acquired from Northwest and the Atlanta-based carrier has kept them in service. The latest count from Airfleets shows Delta operating 127 Boeing 757s, with an average age of over 20 years. This puts these aircraft very close to their ideal retirement age.

What are their 757s like?

Delta’s 757s are configured for two different markets. On one hand, there are domestic and leisure 757s with First Class, Comfort+, and Main Cabin. Meanwhile, for premium and long-haul markets, Delta offers lie-flat business class. Each seat has access to seatback entertainment.

Delta Comfort+
Delta Comfort+ service on a Boeing 757-200. Photo: Delta Air Lines

How will Delta replace them?

Delta has shown a strong liking for the Boeing 797 as a replacement for their Boeing 757s. Although the 797 has not yet been formally announced by Boeing, it is believed that the manufacturer will go ahead with these plans after the 737 MAX returns to service.

Delt a 757
Delta could replace their 757s, often used for special flight events, with Boeing 797 aircraft. Photo: Delta

If the 797 does not work out, Delta could go for Airbus A321 aircraft. In 2017, Delta ordered 100 A321neo aircraft with options for 100 more. Airbus and Delta could work with this order for some A321LRs or A321XLRS to replace the 757 on long-haul routes. Although Delta has not indicated this as a possibility, it seems to be the only likely aircraft for Delta if the 797 does not fit with their timeline.

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How long will they keep flying the 757s?

The 757s will likely stay through the mid-2020s, as Delta is unlikely to get any replacement for these aircraft prior to then. Moreover, the lack of an internationally-configured aircraft to replace the 757 long-haul routes would lead to the cancellation of several routes, something Delta undoubtedly wants to avoid happening.

Delta
Delta pilots will likely keep flying the aircraft through the mid-2020s. Photo: Delta

Delta could retain these aircraft into the later 2020s due to the sheer number in its fleet. Replacing over 100 aircraft is no small deal, and delivery delays or production line issues could require Delta to fly the 757s for longer- albeit at a high cost.

Delta 757
757s, like this one, could fly through the next decade if replacement aircraft come in slowly. Photo: Delta

Do you like the Boeing 757? What aircraft do you think Delta will replace their 757s with? Let us know in the comments!

Simple Flying reached out to the airline. However, Delta did not respond prior to publication. 

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Aviator

When it fallout the sky is when they will retire the aircraft

RICHARD JOHNSON JR

This is my favorite plane to fly with Delta. I fly on the 757’s 20 to 25 times a year. I wish Boeing would come out and make a new plane just like the 757 with new technology. This is truly a workhorse for Delta and many other airlines even being on average of 20 plus years old. Delta will try at first to replace the 757’s with the 321neo’s but it is just not the plane like the 757. So maybe if Boeing can build the 797 it can replace the later models of the 757’s and some of… Read more »

Matt

I don’t understand why many people say that. It has the same narrow fuselage width as the 737. The A320 family will always be more comfortable with the added width. I hope to see some A321s replacing both soon.

SO_CAL_RETAIL_SLUT

The same as NWA did with their ex-North Central and Southern DC-9”s, DAL will refurbish the 757-232’s and 757-251’s to maximize their cycles, possibly flying for another 15 years, with an end life of 40 to 45+ years in service. You can expect DAL to phase out/retire the 757-300’s at an earlier point, with or without the 789.

–The Sun Will Never Set On Northwest Orient Airlines–

SO_CAL_RETAIL_SLUT

Sean

Why are there never any articles about the equally-old A320’s in their fleet? The USSR had not even collapsed by the time NW took their first batch – some of which are still with Delta.

It seems like every week on this stupid site there is at least one article about complaining about “aging” 757’s or 767’s, even if it’s a carrier like JAL that has many 767’s built in the last 10 years. Why do we never hear about UA’s mid 90s 777’s or LH’s A320’s and 744’s built before the Wall fell?

Nigel

Very valid points.
Generically, one can ask the question: Why do so-called quality airlines insist on keeping 20-year-old (and older) wrecks in their fleets?

Paul Proctor

Passenger transport aircraft are not like cars. The airframes and systems are designed, built and tested to withstand some pretty severe flight conditions, and to function for decades. Calling a well-serviced 20-year-old airplane a “wreck” is silly. What outmodes them is newer planes with increased fuel economy and improved reliability that are less maintenance intensive. And yes, interiors are wear items and must be replaced and updated regularly. I wouldn’t turn down a flight on a properly maintained DC-3.

Neil Kini

The Boeing 737-900ER has been used on a lot of the flights from the east coast to west coast. I went from Atlanta to San Francisco on a Boeing 737-900ER which was 5 hours. They have replaced some of the 757s and 767s with the 737-900ER besides the 737-900ER does carry about the same number of passengers as the 757. They could also replace them with the A321neo since Delta has decided to go the Airbus route.

Kaden

Well Sean, this is a very worthy article. Delta has a total of 127 757’s averaging 21.7 years old with no set plans of replacement! I flew on a 29 year old 757-200 from ANC-MSP which is a flight of almost 6 hours. While the 757 was a great aircraft in it’s time, the interior is getting worn and was quite squished and noisy in economy.
It is definitely high time delta starts phasing out their older 757’s. THANKS Simple Flying for the GR8 article!

william

The 757 is the most aesthetically beautiful aircraft ever (The Constellation and Convair 440 notwithstanding!). It’s nose, the high landing gear, the engines beneath the wings; sleek power. Also very fun to fly in–a lot of power and the takeoffs are exhilarating to say the least. The 3-seat rows are a drag though, for window seat lovers.

Brad

The 757 has been a great and very versatile aircraft. Seeing as Boeing modified the heck out of the 737 over the span of several decades I don’t understand why they couldn’t have built a 757NG of sorts. I’d bet the airlines would have welcomed it with open arms now. For now, yes, the existing 757’s are getting “long at the tooth” and are likely to be (are) maintenance hogs at this point, but that being said I think if anyone could maintain an aging fleet it would be DL.

Luke Mellor

This may be a little off topic, but some pilots complain that the 757 gives rise to disproportionately high levels of wake turbulence to following aircraft. I’m no expert but I believe this is because it uses the 767 wing.

E Coloney

Sorry, the 757 does NOT use the same wing as the 767. I’ve got 8000+ hours in the type

Ste Nicholson

Personally I like the 757. It slightly reminds me of the Concorde because there is a sleek elegance to the aeroplanes. Plus they are the work horses for Delta with an excellent safety record. If one has a good thing, why play with success? The only other consideration I might entertain is perhaps replacing the 757 with the Boeing 707 with quieter engines and making them more fuel efficient. They served perfectly for Long Haul transport. And if we want to go British, which I am, resurrect the VC10, another great work horse and long haul plane. So there you… Read more »

Rod Abid

I’ve always wondered why Boeing didn’t pull out the 757 as a design for the 737MAX. Like the 737 with the 707, the 757 could have been shortened by a couple fuselage barrels, modernized and built with more composites and a shorter tail. But the main advantage is how high it sits with loads of room for a huge engine UNDER the wing.

Nate Dogg

They wouldn’t have needed to shorten it. If anything it just needed a wing upgrade and engine upgrade. They could’ve done a modified 757-300 with Trent 500 engines. That would’ve given 10% better fuel burn straight away and more power.

Marques Dean

Actually when the Boeing 757 was designed there was a proposal to build a short fuselage version (a series 100)but due to the lack of interest at the time it was never built. The 757 has proven itself to be a versatile aircraft as it earned its keep on 300-500 mile routes as well as 2000-3500 mile routes. And its excellent power to weight ratio gives it the ability to takeoff and land on some short runways where the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 would struggle-hence it’s nickname “The Hot Rod”. ATA used to fly 757s in and out of… Read more »