Delta flies to profitability in older planes

Delta Air Lines is boldly going where other carriers aren’t.


According to The Wall Street Journal, Atlanta’s cost-conscious hometown airline is saving money flying older planes, in stark contrast with its competitors who like them shinier and newer.

“… that cost-cutting effort has focused on an asset most airlines avoid: older planes,” it wrote.

The Journal says, “Most large carriers prefer fuel-sipping new planes with the latest high-tech gadgetry. But Delta, which has one of the oldest fleets in the U.S., is making a habit of succeeding by zigging when its rival zag.”

By that, they are referring to Delta’s purchase of an oil refinery, its operation of a big maintenance subsidiary, and its mostly non-union status.

Together, that’s left Delta “in the catbird seat …”

But are older planes safe?

The Journal notes that, “Though some safety experts once fretted about them, most now say that, with careful maintenance, older jets can fly safely.”

It also notes that, “There is no consensus about how old is too old when it comes to a plane.”

The average age of the Delta fleet is 16.6 years. It’s just 12 years at United Continental and US Airways, and 11 years at Southwest. Jet Blue’s are only six years old.

11 comments Add your comment


November 16th, 2012
12:20 pm

Northtwest flew DC-9’s that were 40 years old with no problems. Its all about upkeep and regular service. Delta is very smart in acquiring the MD-90,a great plane built on a rugged frame dating back to the DC-9. They are good fuel efficient airliners that Delta has bought at a very low price. Also the 717’s from southwest will be a great addition to the fleet for smaller cities not needing large 160 seat aircraft. The Northwest mindset lives on at Delta.


November 16th, 2012
2:08 pm

Nothing else to add, to what “Steve” has posted.


November 16th, 2012
4:16 pm

It will be just fine, UNTIL one of these older planes crash. Then all of those “cost savings” will go right down the drain. Just hope I am not on one of these older planes when one decides to go down.


November 16th, 2012
4:51 pm

As a frequent overseas business traveller, Delta’s business class seats and amenities are some of the shoddiest around..I’ve been rethinking my loyalty to them recently, this story helps to confirm that need.


November 16th, 2012
10:53 pm

This is an airline run by the largest group of white collar criminals in the world.


November 17th, 2012
7:40 am

Tim, I don’t know what you’ve been flying in, but I’ve recently enjoyed trans-Pacific service on Delta in Business Elite. On both the 777 and 747 the lie-flat seat pods are the best I’ve seen, and the food and service were exceptional. In contrast, my friend who had the misfortune of flying on United from Europe had a broken entertainment screen as well as a broken seat that wobbled, and was told he couldn’t use a different one although there were other seats open. I’ll fly Delta in comfort.


November 17th, 2012
12:20 pm

The general public is vastly uninformed when it comes to the air line industry and movies like the current piece of crap, “Flight”, do nothing to bolster the image. Airplanes are not cars. They are constantly inspected and maintained; in Delta’s case, to standards that generally far exceed even FAA regulations. While Delta’s fleet age may average over 16 years, that is not old for an airplane, and further, Delta has just placed orders for over 100 brand new 737-900 aircraft to replace older 757’s and A320’s. Additionally, Delta’s aircraft are operated by some of the most experienced and highly trained flights crews in the industry. While customer service is always a challenge, Delta customers can rest assured that they are flying in some of the most well maintained aircraft being flown by some of the best in the industry.


November 17th, 2012
12:58 pm

Thank you Captain for those words of wisdom. I’m not quite sure how highly trained flight crews help with the maintenance of an aging aircraft, but then again I’m not a highly trained bus driver.


November 17th, 2012
1:18 pm

@Dave, your ignorant and condescending post only serves to prove my point. Believe it or not, highly trained flight crews play a huge role in keeping aircraft maintained properly because it is these very crews, who because of their training and experience, know when an aircraft is not operating properly, write-up that discrepancy thereby informing maintenance so that they can fix the issue; in most cases, prior to the next flight. Further it is the ease with which Delta flight crews, and flight crews at other air lines I might add, perform their jobs in all types of challenging environs that makes ignorant folks like yourself draw comparisons to all sorts of other “careers” that require far less mental and physical abilities… There’s an old adage, that says that those that operate aircraft at major air lines are bearing the burden of $1 billion of liability each time that plane goes flying. There are few, if any other jobs out there, that can boast that level of responsibility.

jerry gardner

November 17th, 2012
4:22 pm

Enter your comments here


November 20th, 2012
1:02 pm

How does an inanimate object “decide” to go down? Flip a coin?