It’s been about eight months since American Airlines retired its final MD-80 from its fleet. Now, Delta is planning to do the same with its own McDonnell Douglas aircraft. The US carrier will retire its MD-88 and MD-90 jets earlier than previously planned as a result of the current global situation. In fact, Delta will retire both aircraft types this June.
An ongoing trend
Delta’s plan for the early retirement of its MD jets continues a trend that we are seeing across the aviation industry. With airlines already having plans to retire their older jets, this crisis has expedited the process as airlines anticipate a slow recovery for the industry – diminishing the need for higher levels of capacity.
However, the more noteworthy retirements have been for larger commercial aircraft including:
However, that’s not to say Delta’s latest move isn’t significant. The carrier has 76 of the aircraft still able to fly. More specifically, prior to the coronavirus-driven fleet reduction, there were 47 MD-88s and 29 MD-90s operating.
Retirement for many airlines seems to be the most sensible option. This is because aircraft still cost money to store and maintain, even if they aren’t taking off, burning fuel, and carrying passengers. With no firm date set for a return to normal life, these costs could add up quickly – especially for airlines with much larger fleets.
Furthermore, once many travel restrictions are lifted, there is an anticipation that the air travel industry will take even more time to fully recover. Thus, many think we will experience reduced demand for the next few years.
Delta’s MD aircraft
Both the MD-88 and MD-90 have been flying with Delta’s mainline fleet since the late 1980s. Since then, over 120 of these aircraft have been retired, many of them even scrapped. Travelers would find these aircraft flying domestically out of major Delta hubs such as Atlanta and Minneapolis, to fairly large cities scattered across the United States such as Houston, San Antonio, Birmingham, and Baltimore.
With both types of aircraft having a 3-2 economy layout, the Delta MD-88 has 149 seats while the MD-90 has 158. Filling this role best will be Delta’s other single-aisle aircraft, including the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, which have capacities closest to the larger MD-90.
Delta has reacted quickly to the current crisis by parking aircraft and considering early retirements of older, less efficient airplanes. As part of a recent press release, the airline says that it will continue to evaluate its broader fleet plan and consider additional aircraft retirements to focus on a “modern, more simplified fleet going forward”.
Delta has had to reduce its overall active fleet by about half, parking more than 600 mainline and regional aircraft in the last two months.
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