It’s very rare to see MD-80 series aircraft in Europe these days. To reliably fly one, you need to head to the USA, where they still serve with distinction with American Airlines and with Delta.
I took the opportunity, during a recent flying holiday in the States, to make a last trip on the type, taking in an MD-88 and MD-90, flying Newark-Atlanta-Chicago O’Hare. I filmed the experience for my YouTube channel:
Time is short for these birds. American’s last MD-80 flight is on 4th September this year. Delta is retiring them “by 2020”. With such a busy schedule this year and being based in the UK, this, I felt, was my last chance to fly one of these classic pieces of machinery.
My day started at Newark – and a quick reminder that while you can avail of Sky Priority check in and boarding, exclusively domestic First Class itineraries on Delta do not grant lounge access!
The aircraft for the first flight was an MD-88, N913DE. This aircraft has actually already been stored and removed from service (my flight was in May).
These aircraft have a distinctive rear-engined layout and cockpit eyebrow windows.
My itinerary was in First Class, costing a total of $248 one way, just $65 more than economy. $65 for a bigger seat, lunch, drinks and snacks, and significantly increased mileage earning was a no-brainer. It does pay to check the First Class column when pricing up flights! Sometimes you get a real sweet spot.
The interior of these aircraft are fitted out in the latest Delta upholstery; a classy dark blue with red logo. First Class is 2+2, with economy seating in a 2+3 configuration.
There is no seatback entertainment on these old aircraft, but there is a lot of legroom. The seats are comfortable and traditional domestic premium armchairs.
Pre-departure drinks of water and juice were distributed. Today’s crews on both flights were excellent; nothing was too much trouble and every guest in First Class was made to feel welcome.
Takeoff was rapid and quiet. On these aircraft, in the front of the cabin, there is very little engine noise; most of what you can hear in the video is the sound of the nose wheel rolling over the runway!
Lunch was served shortly after takeoff. It was a cold snack appropriate to the time of day. The chicken was tasty, the salad crunchy, and the dessert biscuits were not too sweet. A vast improvement from my previous Delta experience, which was an unexpected disaster on Delta One!
Delta’s app is one of the best in the industry. I used the onboard WiFi to track my arrival and connection from Atlanta. This transparency alleviates much of the stress of tight connections, and I find it very useful.
After less than two hours, we landed slightly early in Atlanta, and I got myself a coffee. There’s a priority lane at Dunkin’ Donuts for uniformed flight crew – good for them, because I know how time-pressed crew can be, especially at Atlanta, where the terminals are vast and sprawling.
My next flight was on MD-90 N935DN. The -90 is a stretched version of the MD-88 (which is in itself a stretched MD-80!), and the longest of all the MD-80 series aircraft.
With the engines being even farther away, takeoff was even quieter – at least in First Class!
The wings are a long way behind the nose – even in the fourth row of First Class, only the very tips are visible.
The interior of the MD-90 differs subtly from the -88, especially with relation to the window shapes. There are other differences too, but I left this as a little teaser on my video, so I’m not posting any clues here!
Service on this slightly shorter flight consisted of snacks and drinks; there was no full meal service.
The WiFi again was excellent and allowed me to track our position in real-time.
Soon, we were approaching the Chicagoland area, with the downtown Loop area clearly visible from our descent.
These aircraft are quickly disappearing, so get on them quick! If you can’t make a classic American MD-80 before the last flight, you have a few months’ extra chance with Delta.
Whether you love them or not, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Overall, a great day out on two classic workhorses, and it certainly beats going directly from New York to Chicago. May they rust in peace!