The Boeing 717 is a twin engine, single aisle jet airliner. An airliner that was created to service the 100-seat flight market, the Boeing 717 enjoyed a relatively short production span with the first being produced in 1998 and the last in 2006. Although there are some Boeing 717s still in service, there were only ever 156 built. Born in the United States, the plane was designed and promoted by McDonnell Douglas in partnership with Boeing, a partnership that started in 1997. Providing seating for up to 117 passengers, the Boeing 717 gets its power from two Rolls-Royce BR715 turbofan engines and is a development of the DC-9, which was also conceived and produced by McDonnell Douglas.
While the list of current in-service Boeing 717s is still relatively long and impressive, there has been significant a reduction in the number of operators using this plane and there are more looking to phase out its use. The main airlines that fly this plane today are reported as being QuantasLink in Australia, AirTran Airways (who subleased the planes to Delta Air Lines in mid 2013); Delta Air Lines and Hawaiian Airlines. The subleasing of the AirTran Airways Boeing 717s to Delta arguably makes Delta the leading operator of this plane in the skies today.
The expansion of the use of the 717 by Delta Air Lines has been rapid. The first Boeing 717 took to the sky for Delta in October 2013 and made its maiden voyage from Atlanta to Newark. At the time boasting only two 717s, Delta quickly grew its fleet to 10 by the end of 2013 by acquiring the planes from Southwest subsidiary AirTran who took ownership of just under 90 717s when they acquired AirTran in 2011. It was AirTran’s original plan to add a second stream of aircraft to its existing Boeing 737 fleet, but they changed direction and subsequently came to an agreement to sell the 717s to Delta.
Delta operates the 717 across First Class, Economy Comfort and Economy categories with 12, 15 and 83 seats being allocated to each class option respectively. With a cruising speed of 504mph, the range of the Boeing 717 is just over 1500 miles. When it comes to comfort, first class seating measures 50 x 94 cm; economy comfort seating 46 x 86 cm and economy 46 x 79 cm, which makes this airline option somewhat more luxurious than the budget airlines whose seats range in size from only 40 x 58 cm to 43 x 58 cm.
Delta Airlines offers a wide range of flights already with the Boeing 717 and seem to have carved a neat niche in the sky for themselves by keenly buying up these planes at good prices. Particularly suited to shorter flights, the Boeing 717 is often reported as being seen as the future ‘workhorse’ of the Delta fleet.