Delta to Add Boeing 717 Fleet Replacing Small Jets

Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) will add 88 Boeing 717-200 aircraft to its fleet starting in 2013, an addition that aims to improve the efficiency of Delta’s operations and enhance the customer experience. The announcement was made today, July 9.

Delta has finalized an agreement with Southwest Airlines and Boeing for the Boeing 717s, which are currently in service at Southwest subsidiary AirTran Airways. The aircraft will begin delivery next year, with 16 scheduled to enter Delta’s fleet in 2013. An additional 36 will be delivered in 2014, and the remaining 36 in 2015.

[ Also Read: Southwest Airlines Previews Live TV Inflight on Five Aircraft ]

The Boeing 717s will primarily replace small 50-seat regional jets on a capacity-neutral basis. The 110-seat aircraft will feature new, fully upgraded interiors, with 12 First Class seats, 15 Economy Comfort seats and in-flight WiFi throughout the aircraft. Seats in Economy will be arranged in a 2-3 configuration with just one middle seat per row.

“Adding the Boeing 717 to our fleet will give customers, particularly business travelers, more mainline aircraft service that features their preferred amenities,” said Delta CEO Richard Anderson. “The 717s also provide Delta with a significant improvement in economic efficiency relative to the aircraft they are replacing.”

The 717 initiative is the latest step in Delta’s domestic fleet optimization plan launched in 2010, focused on improving the profitability of the company and providing customers an industry-leading customer experience.

[ Also Read: Will the Use of Social Media Affect Air Travel? ]

Delta will begin taking delivery next year of new fuel-efficient Boeing 737-900ER jets, which will primarily replace older Boeing 757 and 767 and Airbus A320 aircraft. Delta will add 100 new 737-900ERs between 2013 and 2018.  In addition, Delta has upgraded its fleet with the addition of more than 80 MD-90 and two-class regional jets, retiring less efficient mainline and regional aircraft.

The newly acquired 717 aircraft continue Delta’s ongoing $3 billion investment in improving the customer experience on the ground and in the air. The improvements include investments in technology, employee training, aircraft upgrades and enhancements and expanded and enhanced airport facilities worldwide.

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