Delta retires MD-88 and MD-90 jets early because of the coronavirus


A Delta Airlines passenger aircraft (McDonnell Douglas MD-88) takes off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City, New York.

Robert Alexander | Getty Images

A noisier era of aviation ends Tuesday when Delta Air Lines retires its “Mad Dog” jets.

Its remaining MD-88s — and a quieter, younger model, the MD-90 — are headed to an early retirement because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Delta expected to retire the twin-engine MD-88s at the end of this year and the MD-90s by the end of 2022, but a sharp drop in travel demand has prompted it to idle more than 600 planes and retire some of its older jets early. The carrier is also planning to retire its Boeing 777 fleet by the end of the year.

Delta is the last U.S. airline to operate the planes after American Airlines retired its MD-80 fleet in September. The retirement also ends the era of the McDonnell Douglas name, the company that Boeing acquired in 1997. The planes’ were based on a jet whose history stretches back to the 1960s, the DC-9.

The final scheduled passenger flights, DL88 and DL90, depart from Washington Dulles International Airport and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, respectively, to Delta’s home and hub Atlanta. After that they will be parked in Blytheville, Arkansas.

The MD-88s, first delivered to the carrier in 1987, were so key to Delta’s network that they were used on half of the flights at its Atlanta hub in 2014.

But the planes weren’t necessarily a welcome arrival. When Delta removed them from its New York LaGuardia Airport service in March 2017 Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, “We welcome Delta Air Lines’ positive and responsive decision to retire these aircraft, which will provide some much-needed noise relief to all nearby neighborhoods.”

Because of the coronavirus, Delta is forgoing the usual fanfare of an aircraft retirement, but a spokesman said dozens of aviation enthusiasts bought tickets for the final flights.

A Delta Airlines MD-88 at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta , Georgia, December 9, 2011.

Tami Chappell | Reuters



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