Delta Air Lines Boeing 717 at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). Photo: Max Taubman - @maximumaviation

Miami – Delta Air Lines (DL) on Friday announced plans to retire all Boeing 717 and 767-300ER aircraft by December 2025 along with the Bombardier CRJ-200 by December 2023.

Cutting the aircraft comes as a form of broader fleet simplification at DL, a step seeming ever more essential as airlines globally are dealing with declining passenger numbers resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delta Air Lines has determined that the jets simply will not turn a profit in the future.

Delta Airlines Boeing 767-332ER (N1602). | Photo: © Roberto Leiro

History of Service

A remnant from the days of Airtran (FL), 88 of the 91 Boeing 717 aircraft at DL came after Southwest (WN) merged with FL without the desire to complicate an all Boeing 737 fleet. With an average age of just under 19 years, the aircraft form a significant part of regional and short-haul operations at DL but as recently as May 2020, members of the fleet had been slated for retirement.

Owning 49 Boeing 767-300ER, DL uses them for both medium and long-haul services with routes ranging from Accra (ACC) to New York (JFK) and JFK to Los Angeles (LAX).

The CRJ-200, with only 50 seats, has formed the backbone of regional service across the United States while operated by regional partners of DL including Endeavor Air (9E) and Skywest Airlines (OO). Connecting many small towns such as Pocatello (PIH) and Augusta (AGS) with giant hubs including Salt Lake City (SLC) and Atlanta (ATL), the jets have been crucial for small towns and their residents.

The slew of retirement announcements follows the announcement of an exit deadline for the Boeing 777-200s at DL along with the 2017 retirement of the Boeing 747-400.

All Boeing 747-451 aircraft were inherited from the Delta-Northwest merger. PHOTO: CARLOS LUGO.

Future of the Fleet

Replacing the extraordinary number of aircraft that DL is set to retire will be no small task but the airline is moving in the right direction considering the retirements will be complete by December 2023 and December 2025.

With 31 Airbus A220-100s in operation and 64 of both A220-100 and A220-300 aircraft on order, the aircraft is already redefining and modernizing regional operations at DL bringing benefits including lower fuel consumption and greater operational flexibility forming a great replacement for the Boeing 717s and the CRJ-200s aided by newer aircraft of the regional operators including the Embraer E175.

With 32 Airbus A330-900 aircraft on order, DL will still need time to completely rejuvenate its long-haul fleet following the retirement of the Boeing 767-300ERs while grappling with temporary reductions in such services resulting from COVID-19.

From any angle, the eventual retirement of the Boeing 717 and 767-300ER along with Bombardier CRJ-200 will represent the end of an era for DL followed by the wave of the future.

Featured image: Delta Air Lines Boeing 717 at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). Photo: Max Taubman – @maximumaviation