Delta Air Lines To Retire Final MD-90 In 2022

Delta has announced that it plans to retire the last of their MD-90 aircraft by 2022, as reported by The Points Guy. 

A Delta MD-90. Photo: Colin via Flickr

These aircraft have been the workhorse of the Delta regional fleet for decades, and their replacement by other aircraft (such as the A220) will herald in the end of an era.

What are the details?

At a recent earnings call on July 11th, chief financial officer Paul Jacobson outlined a new plan to retire the Delta MD-90 fleet. This new plan actually brings forward the retirement timeline from 2024 to 2022 in an effort to realize fleet simplification benefits.


Delta currently operates 32 MD-90s and will start by taking nine aircraft off their books by the end of the year. They actually began the removal of the type two years ago, taking two aircraft off the tarmac to be used as spare parts for their, at the time, 65 plane strong MD-90 fleet. Delta then removed 12 aircraft in 2018 and has reduced the fleet footprint significantly since.


Additionally, the current age of Delta’s MD-90 fleet is pushing an average of 22 years. In the current age where many flag carriers refuse to have an aircraft over 10 years old, this is rather surprising.

Delta was the only US customer to really take up the MD-90 as a part of their fleet. As the launch customer of the aircraft back in 1995, they ordered 160 MD-90 aircraft. But when McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing, Delta converted the remainder of their 95 orders in Boeing 737s. Only 116 MD-90s were ever built.


Where can you fly on the Delta MD-90?

Currently, Delta operates its remaining aircraft from their hub airport Atlanta. The type flies from Texas to Miami and all the way to upstate new york.

GC Maps
MD-90 routes in the US as of April 2019. Image: GC Maps

What will they be replaced with?

Delta actually has plenty of aircraft on order that are perfect to replace the 158-seater MD-90 with. Specifically, they have:

  • 77 Airbus A220s, which are currently being deployed in the American North-East and Texas
Delta A220
Delta took delivery of their first A220 last October. Photo: Delta News Hub / Wikimedia Commons
  • 144 Airbus A321s & A321neos, which the latter will start to be delivered by 2020.
Delta A321neo
The A321neo will join Delta’s fleet from 2020. Photo: Delta

The arriving new aircraft will be used for these routes, and replace not only the MD-90 but the MD-88 fleet as well.

These new aircraft come with a heap of benefits for passengers including better humidity, LED mood lighting to replicate sunlight and new soft products (such as a window in the bathroom onboard the A220 series).

With the retirement of the MD-90 and MD-88 aircraft, this leaves Delta looking at their next oldest aircraft, their Boeing 757s, and Boeing 767s.

What do you think of this retirement? Let us know in the comments.


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A Dude

Delta is the only one that is flying the MD-90


You wrote: “With American Airlines also retiring the MD-90 completely this year, it will leave Delta as the last major US carrier to fly the type.” American only flew the MD-90 for a brief period after their acquisition of Reno Air in the 90’s and even then, as a result of the acquisition, there were only a couple of -90’s in the fleet. American is retiring their MD-80 fleet this year, which is a much older aircraft than the MD-90. Delta was and is, for all intents and purposes, the only real domestic operator of the MD-90, having taken delivery… Read more »

Trent Pitman

Flew on an MD-90 from Atlanta to KC last month….smooth and quiet. Cheap domestic FC, very lack luster product, but my daughter thought it was a blast.


Sad to see the big dog go 😢

Richard Johnson Jr

The mad dogs have done their purpose it is past time to get rid of them sooner 2022. Delta has got a good replacement with 321-200 and 737-900er. So I hope the 88’s will be all retired by then also. The a220 is also replacing the MD’s for Delta’s northern hubs. On a different note Delta said starting next year the a320 will start being retired thru 2023. Does anyone know what will be it’s replacement? I fly the a320 from ATL to MIA.

Albert Vitale

As others noted another example of poor to no editing here. American has not operated the MD90 in decades since the Reno Air merger and then only a handful. 16 IIRC for only a few years until they could get MD82s so called super80s at AA. The MD90 economics were slightly better then the A320 with the IAE 2500 engine which made them great for hot and high airports like SLC. The biggest issues centered around the variable frequency bus which caused a lot of avionics issues and the frequent fix was to reboot the plane. Morning originators were where… Read more »


There are quite a few mistakes in this article. Please double check any facts you use, if not better include them with a source. Otherwise it seems like you’ve misinterpreted a wikipedia page and doesn’t come across as a high quality, professional piece of journalism. I don’t want to badmouth you, rather look at it as constructive criticism.


It is high time Delta upgrades their fleet of 757’s and 767’s. They have a total of 127 757’s averaging 21.7 years, and 79 767’s averaging 21.8 years.


Saudia Airlines put their MD-90 fleet up for sale in an RFP a long time ago. I know, because I was on their bid list and submitted a bid. The winning bidder quickly sold them to Delta to support their fleet. It was a good deal for everyone involved (except me). Delta’s use of older MD-80s and MD-90s has allowed them to fly shorter routes very efficiently. The MD-80s were still using P&W JT8D-200 series engines (mostly leased) and the combination of low-priced airframes and engines produced enormous profits for the carrier. The higher cost of capital associated with newer… Read more »

Joanna Bailey

Thanks everyone for the feedback – apologies for the errors. Article is now edited and fact-checked; hopefully it’s much improved!


I am a bit shocked that Delta won’t be using the Embraer E-2 series at all. It also seems that Airbus has Delta’s full attention. When it comes time to upgrade the 757’s and 767’s, Delta might just become an all-Airbus fleet.


The article says that the MD90s fly from the Atlanta hub, yet the route map shows them flying from the Detroit and Minneapolis hubs too.
Also, A220s don’t just operate between the NE and Texas. They operate on several routes out of the Detroit hub too.

stephen voss

Although MD90 will be retired soon the MD-95 aka the Boeing 717 will be in Delta’s fleet for several more years.

Pascal Fuster

Sad. Very sad.


the first comercial jet I flew on was the md90 so sad that it is retiring

Tom Boon

Where did you fly? I guess mine was an Airbus A320 or Boeing 737. Not sure which though.