Almost a year after American Airlines ended operations with the MD-80, Delta Air Lines will follow its path and take its MD-88 in addition to the MD-90 out of service. The US airline announced this week that the two planes will be retired in June, earlier than planned.
The accelerated retirement was motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic that reduced the demand for passenger flights. Because they consume more fuel, these planes were discarded in a scenario in which Delta no longer needs to maintain almost 900 aircraft in its fleet.
“Delta has been able to react quickly to the COVID-19 crisis by parking aircraft and considering early retirements of older, less efficient airplanes,” the company said in a statement. According to Delta, its active fleet has been cut in half and about 600 aircraft have been parked in the past two months, including planes from its regional affiliates.
Until February, Delta operated 47 MD-88 and 29 MD-90, which were already being taken out of service in recent years. The original plan was to shut down the MD-80 in late 2020 and the MD-90 in 2022.
After being taken out of service by Delta, few of these narrowbodies will remain in operation on scheduled passenger flights. The MD-80, an evolution of the DC-9, today has just over 100 active units in the world, half of them flying in countries like Venezuela and Iran, which do not have access to the most modern aircraft.
In addition to some units converted for cargo, the MD-80 is still used on charter flights such as the World Atlantic Airlines, which has 11 planes and operates in Florida. Or the MD-83 that carries the Detroit Pistons basketball team in the USA. But leaving the American and Delta fleets, the famous jet, considered a workhorse by its pilots, will be a rare aircraft at airports.
As for the MD-90, the situation is even more special. The variant was the last developed by McDonnell Douglas, with more efficient engines and new avionics, but it had few customers, with only 116 planes produced.
Delta was, in fact, its launch costumer in 1995 and, with its retirement, it will stop operating in commercial aviation if a company is not interested in taking over them.
Then only the Boeing 717-200 will remain, which still has a large presence on Delta, with 91 aircraft. But if the rumors are true, the jet, a renamed MD-95, must have a destination similar to its older brothers.