If you’ve been plane spotting lately, it is still super fun. But I have to admit that it can be a little boring to see 737s and A320s all day. Unless you live near JFK or ORD, most airliners look the same with way less variety in type than before. From a business perspective, we get it. You have to pick aircraft that are efficient and will make you money.
But back in the ’80s, it seemed like it was more about market share than money making. Airlines would fly giant L1011s on trunk routes. The theory was that if they funneled enough people through their hubs, they could disperse them to other cities to cash in and make billions (insert Dr. Evil laugh here).
Unfortunately, that was hardly the case. Great airlines like PanAm, Eastern, TWA, AirCal, Western, PeoplExpress, Midway and others all fell. While we can’t blame their failures just on overcapacity (some had terrible management, others fell due to some tough economic times), the era of overcapacity slowly came to end.
That’s why this video from Salt Lake City is so fascinating. SLC has always been a Delta stronghold. It’s a great city with a large airport. And Delta has always shown the mountainous city love by placing a sizable hub. But Delta wasn’t always the strongest airline on the block. Before their turnaround over the past decade (and their successful merger with Northwest), they actually struggled with an older fleet and mediocre service. They also used to focus service on ultra-competitive cities like DFW and Chicago.
In the awesome video by Youtuber Dan Uscian, you’ll see a mix of L1011s, smoky 727s, and a few 767, 737-200s and 757s sprinkled in. It’s a reminder of how Delta sought to dominate with capacity back in the day. Now with just four mega-airlines and a few small fries left, the Delta of today looks much different. They now host a large fleet of modern jets with a smattering of paid-for McDonnell Douglas MD-88s, MD-90s and 717s that round out their domestic fleet. They are arguably the most profitable US airline with modern amenities, improving customer service, and right-sized service to cities to maximize profits.