Delta quietly removing MD-90s from its fleet

During the second quarter of this year, Delta Airlines has discretely been removing Boeing/McDonnell Douglas MD-90s from its fleet, following plans to adjust the size of aircraft on certain routes.

The airline removed 12 of the aircraft during the period, leaving 53 left in their fleet. All of the retired frames were ex China Southern that were acquired by Delta in 2011.

Delta has their MD-90s configured with 158 seats in a three-class configuration. All first class and Comfort+ seats have 110v power outlets and USB charging ports.

MD-88s are also in the process of being retired in order to be replaced with larger, more efficient aircraft such as the Boeing 737-900 and Airbus A321.

Delta MD-88

Although the MD-90s are more fuel efficient than the MD-88s, their parts availability is not up to standard with other aircraft, primarily because only 116 were built. With Delta being the only operator of the type as of October 2017, sourcing parts outside of their possession is hard work and maintenance costs are climbing according to engineers familiar with the situation.

Henry Hartveldt, president and travel industry analyst at the Atmosphere Research Group, mentioned that the decision to remove the aircraft early could be based on the aircraft’s position in life in the following statement to FlightGlobal:

“It’s likely that these are aircraft that have reached a certain stage in longevity where maintenance requirements are worth more than the value of the asset.”

Despite the part sourcing issues, the IAE V2500 engines on early retirement aircraft can be parted out and used to support the remaining MD-90s where specific parts cannot be sourced.

Delta will receive 70 aircraft this, of which, some have been delivered, so the departure of the MD-90s won’t effect them much in terms of keeping passenger loads and operating routes.

It is not known when Delta will retire their last MD-90 but they remain keen on sending off their last MD-88 by 2020.