American Airlines has announced that their long serving MD80 operations will finally draw to a close on 4th September 2019 after 37 years in service. The final 26 aircraft will cease flying on the same day, with the very final flight taking place between the airlines hubs of Dallas Ft Worth and Chicago O’Hare, sporting an appropriate flight number of AA80. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, the type was the backbone of the short haul fleet with over 300 in service, however in recent years the operations of the type have been winding down with the type mostly operating from the airlines’ hubs to smaller cities.
In a press release, American said:
“On Sept. 4, American Airlines will retire its last 26 McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft. The MD-80, also known as the Super 80, was the workhorse of the airline’s fleet throughout the 1980s and beyond, providing customers and team members with heartfelt memories on adventures ranging from family vacations to key business trips. It’s a bittersweet but well-earned retirement as American celebrates the aircraft’s history while modernizing its fleet.”
The type was supposed to have been retired already, however with the ongoing grounding of the 737MAX, the MD80’s retirement has been repeatedly pushed back. However, despite the uncertainty with the return to service it is confirmed that come the 5th September the fleet will be gone, regardless of the status of the 737MAX situation.
Having flown a couple of American MD80’s in recent years, I think the kindest thing I can say about them is that they were good for novelty value. They made for something a little different to the endless Boeing 737/Airbus A320 flights that are so common these days, however from a comfort perspective, there was no comparison. These old birds didn’t feature WiFi, IFE, or any powerpoints. In First Class, they were a little tight to say the least as they still featured 2-2 seating, despite having a narrower fuselage than most. Down the back, they were in a now uncommon 2-3 layout, which was great if you were sat on the 2 side of the plane with a spare seat next to you, although due to the engines being on the rear fuselage, it was a little on the noisy side to say the least.
With American Airlines retiring the type, this leaves Delta as the one and only major airline flying what was once a common sight in the skies over the US. As of February 2019, there were just 236 of the type left flying worldwide, mostly in service with second tier carriers.
In total, there were 1191 built over a twenty year period between 1979 and 1999. The type was developed from the popular DC9 in the 1970’s, with the original variant being the MD81. The MD82 was more or less the same but with more powerful JT8D engines, where as the MD83 was a longer range variant. The later MD87 was a shorter version and the final variant was the MD88, which was an update of the previous MD82/83 with an updated flight deck and cabin. After this, the type was developed into the MD90 series which again was more or less the same fuselage dimensions, but with updated IAE V2500 engines.
The final American Airlines flights, subject to any last minute changes will be:
Although seats on that final flight between Dallas and Chicago are completely sold out, and with American officially announcing the retirement on their website, seats on the other flights are likely to be very much in demand too.
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