The AirTran Boeing 717s will go from their current livery to Delta's. We will not see one in Southwest livery. Image by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindren.

The AirTran Boeing 717s will go from their current livery to Delta's. We will not see one in Southwest livery. Image by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindren.

Yesterday, it was announced that Southwest Airlines will sublease all 88 of their Boeing 717 aircraft from their wholly owned subsidiary, AirTran, to Delta Air Lines. The tentative agreement would move the 717s from Southwest starting in the second half of 2013 and and be finished in 2015.

In September 2010, Southwest announced the purchase of AirTran and many have questioned what Southwest would do with the Boeing 717s, since they only operate a fleet of Boeing 737s.

“This is a very complex transaction that requires time and close coordination with multiple parties. While we do have a tentative agreement with Delta, final details must be completed with all parties before a binding agreement between Delta and Southwest can be completed,” said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest Airlines’ Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

Southwest plans to re-train 717 AirTran pilots to flying on the 737. All flight attendants and maintenance personal who work for AirTran are already trained on both aircraft types.

Before the move of aircraft can commence, Delta’s pilots will need to approve it. Already, the Master Executive Council (MEC) of the Delta Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has given a tentative agreement and pilots will be able to review the change until June 30th.

Delta has stated that the Boeing 717s will be used to replace 50-seat regional jets. “These actions pave the way for us to restructure and upgauge our domestic fleet, which will lower our costs, provide more pilot jobs and improve the onboard experience for our customers,” said Delta CEO Richard Anderson. “The addition of the Boeing 717s, additional large regional jets and the planned replacement of 50-seat aircraft continue Delta’s commitment to operating an efficient, flexible domestic fleet that offers customers even more opportunities to upgrade to our First Class and Economy Comfort cabins.”

Since Delta already has a fleet of around 180 of the DC9/MD80 family of aircraft, it makes sense for them to be interested in taking on the Boeing 717, which is part of the same family.

Of course, the big question for many of us AvGeeks, is will we see a Boeing 717 in Southwest livery before they are handed over to Delta? Unfortunately we will not. “The 717s had not yet begun the retrofit process, so they will transition from AirTran livery to Delta,” Whitney Eichinger with Southwest Public Relations explained to

Although we may never see a Boeing 717 in Southwest livery in person, luckily there are people out there with great skills to give us an idea of what it would have looked like. I guess we can still be excited to see a 717 in Delta livery, but it won’t be too much different than their DC-9s or MD-80s.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me:
My Father Celebrates Armed Forces Day With Some Heros and Southwest Airlines

I am so tired of these fools “upgrading” there fleets with 30 year old technology. Flying on “Maddogs” is a compete waste they are so fuel inefficient and loud and noisy. Why can they not replace this dated fleet with Bombardier C-Series or something newer that will be technologically advanced enough to save them money and provide a top notch experience. I wish they could have a fleet like this regional jet; Q400, Small domestic C300, large domestic Boeing 737-8Max, Small/medium international 787 large international 747-8 long rage range international 777-8x and all with 32 in leg room in coach. That would be fantastic

New jets have high acquisition costs, old planes, while less efficient are far cheaper. There is a method to Delta’s madness.

Ryan Pierson

717 is a modern aircraft with efficient, quiet BMW/Rolls Royce engines.

EM: actually boeings 717s are not that old, first jet was delivered after Douglas and Boeing merger in 2009 last jets came out in 2006, cockpit is very advanced looks just like the new 737s its Capable of seating of up to 117 passengers and its engines Rolls-Royce BR715 turbofans are more powerful and less noisy than the ones on maddogs like the md88 cheers !!


A very wise move by Delta Air Lines! It will be a very good solution for Boeing, Southwest and Delta and hopefully the pilot´s of Delta will approve the plan to take all 88 Boeing 717s.

Carlos Rosa

The DC-9/MD-80/717 platform is structurally a very robust, strong airframe capable of tens of thousands of cycles. Its heavy maintenance costs are fairly low and, in my opinion, a comfortable aircraft to fly in coach. With structural comonality with it’s MD-88 stablemate, the costs are further reduced. I believe it’s a good decision by Delta to aquire these and free themselves of a portion of the cost of 50 passenger CRJ flying. It is somewhat reminiscent of NWA’s DC-9-30 purchases durring the 80’s.


I am a Delta Silver Medallion and fly about once a month out of GRB. This is the most exiting passenger news I have heard in a long time. I would rather fly on a 45 year old DC93 than a 8 year old CRJ1 or CRJ2! I was on a flight from DTW to MEM last month and I thought I was on a wide body; then realizing it was a DC95! The DC9/MD80/MD90 family of jets are some of the best built and most comfortable out there (especially on the shorter, regional routes). The B717s will be a treat as a passenger and I eagerly anticipate my first flight.


A smart move by Delta. They can now divest their old DC-9’S and maybe even the MD-88’s and continue to ramp up the use of MD-90’s & 717’s for the short range fleet….
Now if they would get on with the purchase of the 747-8i……


why is the airplanes in America so old, compare to Europe and specially middle east. im always travelling with singapore airlines, Qatar, Norwegian etc, and 717 is shit. not new interior, no moodlightning. And service suck over there.


Airlines based in America are more reliable than most out there. They use their airplnes for good. Soon or later they will upgrade to new airplanes. And so basically, airlines in Europe and the Middle east..they have been upgrading so that’s why they fly newer airplanes.

The 17s are also very reliable, they won’t let any airline down.
Great for Delta and the more future jobs available.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *