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.