Delta To Accelerate MD 88 & 90 Retirement Plans

Many airlines still operate a very old fleet of smaller regional aircraft. In the case of Qantas, they have dozens of older Bombardiers that are well over this authors age.

Delta, likewise, has a fleet of McDonnell Douglas (MD) aircraft that they use for short hop routes across America. However, in a recent financial quarter update, Delta is believed to be ramping up retirement of these aging aircraft.

The Delta MD-88. Source: Delta

What is the story?

Delta currently has 79 MD-88s and 37 MD-90s. They are to be phased out and replaced by Airbus A321-200s and Boeing 737-900ERs. Delta still has 52 of the Airbus aircraft on order but has almost received all Boeing 737s. Some have speculated that Delta would have ordered the 737 MAX series after this was complete, but in light of the current situation, this is still unknown.

But it seems that Delta can’t stand having them operate anymore (and for good reason, these aircraft have an average age of 22 years for the MD-90 and 28 years for the 88s) and is planning to retire up to 40 88s this year!

Many have also speculated that the introduction of the Airbus A220 has helped force the MDs retirement. These aircraft are more than capable of filling in the role of the MD aircraft and exceeding customer expectations. Additionally, the Airbus A220 does not have a specific fleet to replace (as it’s a completely new plane type for the Delta fleet). This means it could be swapped in to help cover routes as Delta waits for the real replacements.

Delta is the first U.S. airline to fly the A220-100. Photo: Airbus

What will become of the retired MDs?

If you are wondering what will happen to the MD aircraft once they are retired, they will either be turned into scrap or simply parked in the desert as a empty airframe. However, a few have mentioned that these aircraft might be perfect for Delta to wet-lease to their competition during the 737 MAX grounding.

We don’t know for sure when Delta will fly the last MD aircraft in their fleet, but if you want to catch it you best book sooner rather than later.

Let us know what you think in the comments below! We read every one of our comments and do value your ideas and thoughts!

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Good riddance! A wise decision, just like the similar move made by Allegiant a few years ago. Old wrecks!


“This means it could be swapped in to help cover routes as Delta waits for the real replacements.” Overlooking the obvious point that the A220 IS the replacement. Delta has 90 on order 40 and 50 (100&300). Both of these aircraft have ranges that exceed the following models in Delta’s ageing fleet: 717-200 (117 pax max.) 737-700 (140 pax max.) MD-88 (155 pax max.) MD-90 (163-172 pax max.) The A220-100 has 135 pax max and the A220-300 has 160 pax max. with a 5100 and 5700km range. Delta and it’s clients are reportedly very happy with the aircraft. I would… Read more »


It seems that EVERYONE is happy with the A220…except Embraer and Boeing 😉

Doron Kabilio

Why is their such Anti Boeing bias on simply flying? Its evident in almost every article, comment. Is it Anti American, Trump, or simply a hate the Leader thing?


Uhhhhhh, the article is about Delta’s MD-88 & 90’s. Built by McDonnell Douglas, before they were acquired by Boeing and are over 20 years old. Why the obvious pro-Boeing slant? Should Delta not have retired these old aircraft or perhaps they should have replaced them with 737 Max’s, yes? How would that have worked out for them?


I agree with Nigel – good riddance. Never liked these aircraft. And I think the 320 is more of a replacement for the 717s, as DL’s 320s have only 109 total seats, while their MDs have considerably more.


Not for nothing, but Delta is flying the A220-100 with exactly 109 pax AND a range increase from 1,430 nmi (2,648 km) 2,060 nmi (3,815 km) depending on the model 717 they are flying, to 2,760 nmi (5,110 km) for the A220-100.

Straight swap, better fuel efficiency and longer range. Passengers love it and it’s cutting edge technology. What’s not to like…

Frank Ziegler

Considering the A220 has essentially killed off the 737 Max 7 orders, the E2 order book and the A319 Neo orders, it is easy to see why…




I fly frequently between Atlanta and Denver and last year I had several flights on the MD-90 and MD-88. This year, they’ve been on 737s which are much more comfortable. Don’t/won’t miss those MDs at al.


MD 88’s are crap. Just flew one last week – twice from Milwaukee to Savannah (through Atlanta). It so camped even by airline standards, insufficient overhead storage, and god awful noisy – especially in back. Rode back on a 737-900ER and it felt like a luxury by comparison.

My favorite “big” single aisle is (was) the 757. Man that sucker has fast take off. I think it was designed for to service short runways.

Francis Erdman

This is horrible and frankly evil. Airbus is mathematically provably unsafe compared to any other manufacturer. MD on the other hand is the safest – just look at the stats, and also how they are designed. Airbuses are too complex and not airodynamic enough. This is why that Malaysia flight disapeared for example in the Indian Ocean- because Airbuses just stall for no reason any old time. MD is safe and reliable and I will never fly again after they retire these because to play Airbus is to play russian roullette. They should be making more MD-90’s not retiring them.… Read more »

Joanna Bailey

I think you might be a little confused. The Malaysia flight (MH370) was a Boeing 777, not an Airbus. MD don’t exactly have a glowing safety record, 14 accidents since 2000 compared to 29 at Airbus? When you consider how many more Airbus are flying all over the world, I’d say MD have a much worse safety record proportionally than Airbus. And if you want to talk about stalling, just check out the list of MD88s that have had ‘engine shut down in flight’ here:


You’re an insane person.