Delta likely to base first 717s in Atlanta

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Delta Air Lines is evaluating what hubs to base its Boeing 717-200s at when it begins receiving the aircraft in July.

The carrier is likely to base the first aircraft at its home base at Atlanta Hartsfield but its other large hubs are being considered, says Stephen Hedden, team leader for network planning at Delta, at the Network USA 2013 forum in San Antonio on 4 March.

Delta will receive 110-seat 717s at a rate of three per month from Southwest Airlines from August for 16 by the end of the year. It will have 88 in its fleet by 2015.

The choice of Atlanta would make sense. The aircraft are transitioning out of Southwest-subsidiary AirTran, which operates its largest hub at Hartsfield, and would likely be able to take advantage of the existing maintenance and operational familiarity with the aircraft there.

However, it is possible that 717s could end up at Delta's hubs in Detroit or Minneapolis-St. Paul where they would replace the airline's ageing McDonnell Douglas DC-9-50 fleet.

"There are no specific plans yet," says Hedden.

Delta has 17 DC-9-50s in its fleet, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database.

The majority of the 717s will be used to replace some regional jet flying as part of Delta's fleet restructuring that involves removing more than 200 50-seat aircraft from its regional fleet and replacing them with 70 76-seat CRJ900s and the 88 717s.

Hedden says that the 717s will replace existing CRJ900 flying, while the CRJ900s will replace smaller regional jet aircraft.

Delta will have about 125 50-seat aircraft and roughly 325 CRJ700s, CRJ900s and Embraer 170/175s by 2015.