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 not be surprised in the least to see a further increase to their order in the near future – especially if the -500 is announced.


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.

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…


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 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 c**p. 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. This proves Delta has no regard for human life and only cares about profit and it is EXTREMELY disappointing.

Steve C.

It is time for the old girls to go. I have flown a few Delta MD-88s between Albany NY and Detroit and Atlanta. Compared to the 737’s and A-321’s she is way out of date. People now days want seat entertainment, charging ports, and Wifi. None of which the MD’s have. Not to mention the fuselage mounted engines make them pretty noisy in the cabin. They are as out of date today as floppy disks.