DELTA NEWS ON THE GO. Subscribe and follow.

On Tuesday, June 2, Delta’s MD-88s and MD-90s will fly their final scheduled flights before heading to Blytheville, Ark., for their well-deserved retirement. For more than three decades in the case of the MD-88s, these aircraft served as steady workhorses for the domestic network. They also played significant roles during some of Delta’s challenging moments, as well as periods of success for the airline. 

Even now, the MD-88 and MD-90 retirement marks a special moment in time for Delta, as the airline looks to evolve into a stronger, better, more nimble company amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The final MD-90 flight—aptly numbered DL90—will arrive in Atlanta from Houston at approximately 9 a.m. The final MD-88 flight, DL88, will from arrive from Washington-Dulles at 10 a.m. 

Delta is the last U.S. passenger airline to operate these aircraft, whose history will never be forgotten. At our peak, Delta operated a fleet of 185 “Mad Dog” jets that flew roughly 900 daily flights. Read on for a snapshot of both aircraft, which have carried millions of Delta customers during their operating lifespan. 

Fun MD-88 Facts 

McDonnell Douglas MD-88
  • Delta placed its initial order for 30 MD-88s, often called "Mad Dogs,” in January 1986 with options for 50 more. Eight of the planes were delivered as model MD-82, the forerunner to the MD-88 and later modified by Delta to the more advanced flight deck of the MD-88 configuration. 

  • The MD-88 first entered the Delta fleet in January 1988, serving Austin, Birmingham, Cincinnati, Jackson, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Shreveport and Washington, D.C. The final MD-88 was delivered in December 1993. 

  • Developed from the original Douglas DC-9, the 149-seat MD-88 had twice the passenger capacity of the first version, and modernized engines and avionics. The aircraft’s updated "glass cockpit" boasted digital displays powered by cathode ray tubes was advanced at the time. It also featured aerodynamics improvements found on the earlier MD-82, including a redesigned tail cone.  

  • The aircraft also had a 22-inch wide aisle in the coach cabin and handrails along the edge of the overhead bins to offer additional comfort and safety for customers and crews moving through the cabin. 

  • As of February this year, prior to the coronavirus-driven fleet reduction, there were 47 MD-88s operating.  

  • The MD-88 served a number of special missions during its time at Delta. Just last year, as hurricanes devastated parts of the Bahamas, the MD-88 was used on a humanitarian mission to bring supplies and evacuate residents off the islands, as the flight crew recounted in this NPR interview.  

Fun MD-90 Facts  

McDonnell Douglas MD-90
  • Delta was the launch customer for the 158-seat MD-90, which entered commercial service in April 1995 between Dallas and Reno. Some of the first cities scheduled for MD-90 service included Dallas/Fort Worth, Atlanta, Nashville, Newark, Reno and Jackson. 

  • As the MD-88’s successor, the MD-90 improved Delta’s cost performance by saving fuel and carrying larger loads while minimizing environmental impact through less noise and reduced emissions. The aircraft offered Delta flexibility to provide passenger and cargo services in a wide variety of operating environments since the aircraft performed very well at hot and high-altitude airports, making it possible for Delta to schedule the aircraft for operations throughout North America—for short-haul and longer routes. 

  • Delta initially purchased the MD-90 to replace its Boeing 727's, but when McDonnell Douglas was bought by Boeing in 1997, Delta canceled the rest of its MD-90s and began purchasing the Boeing 737-800. Post-bankruptcy, Delta expanded the MD-90 fleet between 2009 and 2013 when it purchased and refurbished 49 used MD-90s. The addition of these aircraft  helped Delta rebound after bankruptcy.  

  • As of February, prior to the coronavirus-driven fleet reduction, there were 29 MD-90s operating.