American Airlines Bids Farewell to MD-80 After Nearly Four Decades of Service

Today, American Airlines (AA) bid a heartfelt farewell to the iconic ‘Mad Dog’ MD-80, closing out a career spanning 37 years with the company, as AA looks ahead and modernizes its fleet of aircraft.

Flight 80 departed Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) at 9:00 a.m., before landing at Chicago O’Hare 2 hours later.

AA is transitioning to newer fuel-efficient aircraft that offer customers more highly sought-after amenities, such as “industry-leading high-speed Wi-Fi and more inflight entertainment and access to power,” according to the company.

Captain Bruce Taylor, a 25-year MD-80 veteran, flew the plane into retirement today, N984TW, which was actually the last MD-80 ever built and originally a TWA bird. The plane will now fly to its final resting place in Roswell, NM, along with most of the remaining 26 aircraft.

As we wrote about previously, back in the early 1980s American Airlines took a gamble on the MD-80. McDonnell Douglas was desperate for business, so American’s CEO at the time (Bob Crandall) negotiated a sweetheart deal, where the airline received a fleet of new MD-80s to try out for a ridiculously low rate.

The good news for McDonnell Douglas was that American loved the 5 abreast jet. The updated DC-9 allowed American to grow a fortress hub at DFW and connect Chicago O’hare and the East Coast. American eventually purchased over 200 of the type. After the acquisition of TWA, the fleet grew to approximately 370 in service at its peak.

Over the past 5 years, American has been retiring the type. They have been replaced by 737-800 and 737-8MAX jets. Some MD-80s were supposed to even outlive American’s 737-800NG fleet as American has begun retiring some 737-800s. However, the sidelining of the 737-MAX8 has delayed retirement. American has also acquired second-hand A319s from Frontier Airlines to make up for the lost capacity.