Delta Air Lines will retire its last remaining McDonnell Douglas DC-9 on January 6.
To acknowledge the DC-9’s retirement, the last Delta Air Lines DC-9 flight will be DL2014, which the carrier has numbered accordingly in order to note the aircraft’s final year of service.
The preceding flight operating from Detroit to Minneapolis/St. Paul will be flight DL1965, the aircraft’s initial year of service.
Flight DL2014, which is scheduled to depart Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (IATA code MSP) at 4:20 p.m. CST for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), will the last scheduled commercial flight of the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 by a U.S. passenger airline. However, several U.S. cargo operators still operate small numbers of converted DC-9 freighters.
“The DC-9 has been a workhorse in our domestic fleet while providing a reliable customer experience,” says Nat Pieper, Delta’s vice president – fleet strategy. “The aircraft’s retirement paves the way for newer, more efficient aircraft.”
Since 2008, Delta has removed or retired more than 350 aircraft from its fleet including 50-seat CRJ-200s, Saab 340 turboprops and DC-9s, while adding new aircraft such as the Boeing 777-200LR; two-class, 65- and 76-seat regional jets; Boeing 717s; and variants of the Boeing 737NG family.
These aircraft have been added largely on a capacity-neutral basis, according to Delta.
The DC-9 retirement comes just months after Delta began taking delivery of its orders of 88 Boeing 717 jets and 100 Boeing 737-900ER aircraft, which began entering service in October and November, respectively.
Each aircraft features a First Class cabin and slim-line seats throughout Delta’s Economy Comfort and Economy cabin, along with Wi-Fi connectivity and in-seat power ports. Additionally, the Boeing 737-900ER offers on-demand entertainment throughout the cabin.
Atlanta-based Delta also recently announced an order for 40 Airbus aircraft, including 30 single-aisle A321s, which will begin to be delivered in 2016, and 10 more Airbus A330-300 widebodies.
Delta was the launch customer for the original 65-seat version of the DC-9 in 1965, the DC-9-10, as the airline replaced propeller-driven aircraft on high-frequency, short-haul domestic routes.
The twin-engine DC-9-10 was retired from the Delta fleet in 1993, but larger variants, DC-9-30s and DC-9-50s, re-entered service with Delta following Delta’s merger with Northwest Airlines. The merger was agreed in 2008 and completed operationally in 2010.
Those aircraft joined the Northwest Airlines fleet when it acquired Republic Airlines in 1986, Republic then operating a large fleet of DC-9s.
Delta Air Lines has flown a total of 305 DC-9s since 1965.
Despite the retirement of the last DC-9 in U.S. passenger service, the heritage of the DC-9 family lives on in the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 family, and the MD-90 and Boeing 717.
Although all were new designs, they were all based on the DC-9 family, much like today’s Boeing 737NG jet’s and tomorrow’s Boeing 737 MAX family are direct descendants of the Boeing 737-100, which entered service in 1967.
In addition to the 88 ex-AirTran Airways Boeing 717s it has agreed to purchase from Southwest Airlines, Delta also operates 117 MD-88s and 65 MD-90-30s, with both types likely to remain in service with Delta for many more years yet to come.
Other U.S. operators of large MD-80 passengers fleets are American Airlines, which still has 162 in service (though all are due to be retired from American’s service by 2018); and Allegiant Air, which has a fleet of 56, though it uses some for replacement parts to keep its other MD-80s flying.