ATLANTA, April 30, 2008 – Thirty years ago today, Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) Flight No. 10 took its maiden flight from Atlanta to London’s Gatwick International Airport taking Delta customers across the Atlantic for the first time. The departure from what was then known as Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport marked a significant milestone in the growth of the airline, the city of Atlanta, and what is now the world’s largest airport.
"Delta is confident that this new Atlanta-London air route will be a major catalyst in an expansion of international business and tourism here," accurately predicted R. S. Maurer, then Delta's vice chairman of the Board, during inaugural flight ceremonies held April 30, 1978, at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport. "Today is a dream come true. For Delta, this is a dream of more than a decade in length. For several of you here, I suspect that you have for even longer a period waited for Atlanta and Georgia to take this great step forward as a vital world air transportation center."
April 30, 1978, was another era in air travel. Crude oil was $13 per barrel, compared to more than $115 today. Delta reservations were made by phone through agents in Atlanta or London because the Internet, personal computer and online shopping did not exist. Flight No. 10 was operated with a Lockheed L-1011 aircraft with 24 first class and 238 economy seats. Delta projected its first in-flight movie, a 16mm version of Oh God, starring George Burns and John Denver. Economy roundtrip airfares were $844 round-trip, which in inflation-adjusted dollars now would be about $2,764.
Though prior to 1978 Delta had been flying to Canada, the Bahamas and Venezuela, the success of the London-Gatwick flight unleashed Delta’s international expansion. Over the next 10 years Delta added flights to many European destinations. In 1991, Delta acquired the majority of Pan Am’s European routes and began to develop a major international presence in New York. In 1998, the carrier launched its Latin America expansion and began nonstop service between Atlanta and Tokyo’s Narita Airport. This year, Delta started serving London’s Heathrow and Shanghai, China, two major milestones for the airline‘s international growth from Atlanta.
“By the end of this year we will have added almost 100 new international routes since 2005,” said Glen Hauenstein, executive vice president – Network and Revenue Management. “What started with a single flight across the Atlantic eventually put Delta, our hometown of Atlanta and its airport on an unstoppable globalization path.”
Today Delta serves 306 destinations worldwide, 37 of them across the Atlantic -- more than any other airline. Starting March 30, Delta now serves London at both Gatwick and Heathrow, with daily flights from Atlanta, New York-JFK, Cincinnati and Los Angeles. International routes this summer are projected to account for nearly 40 percent of Delta’s revenues.
Delta Air Lines operates service to more worldwide destinations than any airline with Delta and Delta Connection flights to 306 destinations in 58 countries. Delta has added more international capacity than any major U.S. airline during the last two years and is the leader across the Atlantic with flights to 37 trans-Atlantic markets. To Latin America and the Caribbean, Delta offers more than 517 weekly flights to 57 destinations. Delta's marketing alliances also allow customers to earn and redeem SkyMiles on nearly 16,409 flights offered by SkyTeam and other partners. Delta is a founding member of SkyTeam, a global airline alliance that provides customers with extensive worldwide destinations, flights and services. Including its SkyTeam and worldwide codeshare partners, Delta offers flights to 841 worldwide destinations in 162 countries. Customers can check in for flights, print boarding passes and check flight status at delta.com.