My kiddos aboard an Airbus A320, thanks to a gracious Delta first officer
Knowing you’re in good hands is more than an insurance company slogan, it is a daily practice for the talented men and women who fly millions of people safely around the globe on a daily basis. So instead of complaining about the legroom or snack selections on board, please take a minute and and thank your pilots (hey, don’t forget the flight attendants too).
Less than 24 hours after the engine explosion that killed one person on Southwest Airlines flight 1380, I boarded an airplane with my two children for an international flight back home. The kiddos (11 and 8) heard a little news about the incident, but I intentionally did not give them all the details so they wouldn’t get worried as we had two flights with a combined eight hours in the air that day.
As soon as we boarded, the first officer immediately said hello to my kids and quickly offered them a look up front. The kids were game and their AvGeek dad was more than willing to check out the flight deck of the Delta Air Lines A320 that would be safely getting us back to the USA. That kind gesture took away any nervousness I had about flying that day.
Being the former TV news reporter, it’s habit to ask him lots of questions – which planes he’s flown, Airbus or Boeing, and what one is his favorite. The thing that stuck out about the chat was his mentioning flying a KC-10 refueling tanker for the Air Force.
Two U.S. pilots stepping off the first 787-9 at Boeing Field – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
With the Emirates Milan saga, where US & Italian airlines are backing a play to force the Gulf carrier off the Fifth Freedom New York route, it led me to look into similar instances that have happened over the last few months that perhaps lead to a deeper situation.
It seems that US-based airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) are trying their hand at stopping outsider airlines from getting to the United States rather than just expanding themselves.
Let’s take a closer look.
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 AirlineReporter.com.
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.