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 To Accelerate MD 88 & 90 Retirement Plans
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.

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