When Southwest bought out AirTran they were quite up front about their desire to get rid of the 717s in their newly acquired fleet. Thanks to a new agreement between Delta and their pilot union, it seems like there is a deal on the table which will allow them to do precisely that. Assuming the pilots ratify the new contract Delta will lease 88 of the 717s from Southwest, putting them in to operation while also retiring the DC9-50s and some CRJs as well. The replacements will be in a capacity-neutral manner, which suggests more aircraft will be retired than will be brought in based on the seating densities.
The good news in this move is that fewer tiny regional jets generally should lead to a better in-flight experience for passengers. The bad news is that it may also lead to decreased frequencies as there will be fewer planes flying. Plus, the AirTran 717s are not known to be the most comfortable aircraft in the skies. That said, they are equipped with gogo’s in-flight internet service and Delta is also a customer of gogo so that should see the connectivity remaining in service.
As part of the deal with the pilots to bring the 717s into the fleet Delta will also be allowed to increase the number of 76-seat jets they have operated by regional carriers. These are not mainline pilot jobs, but the total number of regional pilot positions will likely remain steady as the smaller regional jets are retired and these are brought in to the fleet.
The overall position with the pilots at Delta seems to be quite positive these days. More flying will be mainline which means more pilots working for the parent company rather than a regional affiliate. It also seems relatively good for customers, with fewer of the small CRJs and the new planes all offering wifi and first class cabins. Seems to be mostly smiles all around.
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