Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The End of an Era

Alaska Airlines retired the last of its MD-80 planes this weekend, completing the transition to an all-Boeing 737 fleet like Southwest. The MD-80s were considerably less fuel-efficient than more modern aircraft, and production has ceased entirely in the wake of the merger of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. The move is understandable, although the MD-80s were unique in a sky filled with Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, which are largely similar to one another.

Alaska did lose an MD-83 in the Flight 261 tragedy back in 2000.

Other airlines are doing or have already done the same with their MD-80 fleets. Continental phased out the last of their MD-80s in 2005, having since moved to an all-Boeing fleet. American is planning to do the same, but they have a LOT of MD-80s (around 300) to work through, so it is going to take them quite a while.

Alaska still flies a bunch of 737 Classics (almost entirely -400s), which I guess will eventually be the next to go in favor of the shiny new 737NGs (-700s, -800s, and -900s). I understand the Classics are considerably less fuel-efficient than the NGs as well, and a lot of airlines (United comes to mind) are simply parking them as they reduce capacity.

Fortunately, in the hearts and minds of us simmers, the MD-80 will live on in the form of the Super 80 and Super 80 Pro add-ons from Flight1.

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