It will soon be hard to find one of the classic jetliners flying in the US.  Longtime fan, Allegiant, retired all its “Mad Dogs”.  American plans to do the same by year end.  Delta, the airline that loves old planes it can keep flying and disrupting competitors via lower costs, will also have to face the inevitable.

Here’s why.

It is becoming expensive to keep the Mad Dogs flying.  The gap between the average cost of single-aisle ops and the MD fleet is growing.  If one considers the mad rush to put winglets on every airliner to save ~3% in fuel burn, a cost gap of well over 10% is going to draw the wrong kind of attention.

Capital costs may have been written down with most of these aircraft at or over 20 years old, costs become focused on operations.  The MD-80s have engines that are two generations old, and the MD-90 engine is a generation behind.  Fuel costs are rising again, making these aircraft increasingly costly in fuel burn terms.

We expect to see each one retire as it approaches its next big check.  Off to the boneyard and an ignominious second life as a soda can.  Now, if only the OEMs can deliver replacements fast enough.

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Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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