You Have 3 Years Left to Fly a ‘Mad Dog’ on Delta Air Lines

Jul 22, 2019

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Delta Air Lines has set the date for its last McDonnell Douglas MD-90 flight, marking the end of the venerable narrowbody aircraft family’s nearly six-decade run in the fleets of US carriers. The MD-90 is the last of the McDonnell Douglas single-aisle jetliners, heir to a tradition that stretched back to the 1960s.

The carrier plans to retire its MD-90 fleet by the end of 2022, two years after it removes its last MD-88, its chief financial officer Paul Jacobson said recently.

American Airlines, once the largest operator of MD-80 family aircraft, will remove its last of the type in September.

Delta will remove the MD-90 two-years earlier than previous plans to “realize fleet simplification benefits,” said Jacobson during the airline’s second quarter earnings call on July 11. The airline will replace the aircraft with ones from its current orderbook, which includes 77 Airbus A220s and 144 Airbus A321s and A321neos, he added.

A Delta Air Lines MD-90 takes off from Atlanta in June 2014 (Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG)

The carrier operated 34 MD-90s with an average age of 22.2 years at the end of June, its latest fleet plan shows. It plans to remove nine aircraft by year end.

Delta was the launch operator of the MD-90, introducing the aircraft in 1995. It had placed the first order for the stretched MD-80 in 1989.

For those who want to catch a few more MD-90 flights before the type disappears from US skies, Delta bases the aircraft at its Atlanta headquarters. The 158-seat aircraft flies a variety of mid-haul routes to as far west as El Paso in Texas, north to Portland in Maine, and south to Miami, according to Diio by Cirium schedule data.

Delta MD-90 routes in July 2019. Map by Diio by Cirium.
Delta MD-90 routes in July 2019. (Map by Diio by Cirium)

Delta began slowly removing its once 65-strong fleet of MD-90s two years ago. In 2017, it pulled one of its first two MD-90s, registration N902DA, from service without providing a reason for the move despite comments that it would retire the MD-88s first. The retirements accelerated last year, with 12 aircraft leaving the fleet in the first half of 2018.

The early retirement of some MD-90s was understood to be to support the in-service fleet, with parts from the removed aircraft available to support operational aircraft.

A Delta Air Lines MD-90 in 1997. (Photo by Etienne DE MALGLAIVE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
A Delta Air Lines MD-90 in 1997. (Photo by Etienne DE MALGLAIVE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Delta confirmed plans to remove the MD-90 from its mainline fleet in April when Jacobson said the carrier planned to “accelerate the retirement of our MD-90 fleet.” He did not provide a timeline.

Featured image by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

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