What is known today as Delta Air Lines was founded in 1924 in Monroe, Louisiana, as Huff Daland Dusters, commencing commercial flights in mid-June, 1929.
In 1930, service to Atlanta is initiated, and the company is renamed “Delta Air Corporation.”
Five years later, Delta offers first night service with the Stinson Model A, first Delta aircraft with two pilots.
In 1940, Douglas DC-2s and DC-3s join the fleet, and flight attendants, called “stewardesses,” are being added to flight crews.
In 1945, the official corporate name becomes Delta Air Lines, Inc., and the airline receives the National Safety Council Award for over 300 million passenger miles and 10 years of flight without a passenger or crew fatality.
One year later, Delta becomes the first airline with non-stop Chicago-Miami flights.
In 1949, Delta’s first coach service starts: discounted-fare night flights between Chicago and Miami.
In 1953, Chicago and Southern Air Lines merger brings Delta its first international routes (to the Caribbean and Caracas), and the airline is called Delta-C&S for the next two years.
In 1956, Delta installs radars in noses of all its aircraft.
Three years later, Delta becomes first airline to launch the Douglas DC-8 jet service.
In 1960, Delta is the first airline to launch the Convair 880 jet service.
In 1962, Delta activates the electronic SABRE system for “instant” reservations, and one of its DC-8s is the first commercial plane to fly from Los Angeles to Atlanta in less than 3 hours (02:57:11).
Two years later, the Deltamatic reservation system starts with IBM 7074 computers.
In 1965, Delta is the first airline to fly the Douglas DC-9 on commercial routes.
In 1970, Delta’s fleet starts using Boeing 747s, and the airline is only using jets now.
Northeast Airlines merges with Delta, and the airline starts using the Boeing 727.
In 1973, L-1011 TriStar jets join the fleet.
Two years later, Delta becomes the first airline to offer its own air express service, a new high priority, guaranteed cargo service called Delta Air Express.
In 1978, after the Airline Deregulation Act passes, Delta begins its transatlantic service from Atlanta to London.
In 1979, Delta begins flights to Frankfurt, West Germany, and becomes the first airline in the world to board one million passengers in one city in one month (Atlanta in the month of August).
Computer reservations systems (CRS) is started in the early 1980s, while the Frequent Flyer Program (changed to SkyMiles in 1995) is launched in 1981.
In 1984, Delta introduces flights to/from Hawaii.
Three years later, Western Airlines merges with Delta, becoming the fourth largest U.S. carrier and fifth largest world carrier.
After first transpacific service begins, Delta opens operations in Asia with regular transpacific flights from Atlanta to Portland, Oregon, to Tokyo.
In 1990, Delta is the first U.S. airline to offer MD-11 jet service, and together with other 23 civilian airlines, participates in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) during Desert Storm/Desert Shield from 1990-1991, carrying passengers and military cargo.
One year later, Delta purchases substantially all of Pan Am’s transatlantic routes and the Pan Am Shuttle, making this the largest acquisition of flights in airline history.
In 1995, Delta is the first U.S. carrier to voluntarily ban smoking on all flights.
Delta starts low-fare airline Delta Express in 1996, with service from Orlando, Florida.
One year later, Delta introduces Boeing 777s into the fleet and becomes the first airline to board over 100 million passengers in a year. New routes to Latin America are being added.
In 1998, Delta and SwissCargo lay the foundation of the first international cargo alliance. During the same year, Delta becomes the first airline to install automatic defibrillators on board all of its aircraft.
In 2000, Delta founded SkyTeam, a global alliance, together with AeroMexico, Air France and Korean Air. At the same time, it places the industry’s largest order of regional jets (500).
In 2003, after two years of continuous progress, Delta becomes the first U.S. airline to offer pre-recorded audio flight information at the gate.
In 2005, on September, 14, Delta files for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. In late November, Delta starts one of the largest one-month expansions in its history with service on seven new Latin American and Caribbean routes.
Next year, Delta launches first service to southern Africa with flights between Atlanta and Johannesburg via Dakar, Senegal, providing service to more destinations than any global airline with 124 new non-stop routes and 41 destinations.
In 2007, Delta defeats hostile takeover attempt by US Airways and completes restructuring plan one year ahead of schedule, emerging from bankruptcy on April 30 and re-listing on the New York Stock Exchange on May 3.
During 2008, Delta and Northwest merge, creating a truly global airline with major operations in every region of the world, remaining headquartered in Atlanta and keeping its name. Approximately 15 percent of new company’s stock is given to employees.
Same year, Delta becomes first U.S. airline to announce onboard Wi-Fi for domestic mainline fleet.
In 2009, Delta celebrates 80 years of passenger service, and its expansion continues.
In 2010, Delta announced a plan to invest more than $2 billion in enhanced airport facilities, technology and global products and services through 2013 to enhance the customer experience in the air and on the ground.
In the fall of 2010, Delta launches the Fly Delta app for iPhone; versions for BlackBerry, Android and Windows followed soon after.
In November 2011, Delta’s Away We Go App rolls out for customers to plan, discuss and share details about their trip with their travel partners, all within Facebook.
In 2012, PCWorld Magazine names Delta Airlines “Top Tech-Friendly U.S. Airline” for its airport recharging stations, in-flight Wi-Fi, smartphone apps, and use of social media. Delta operates the world’s largest Wi-Fi-equipped fleet of aircraft.
In July 2012, Delta, Southwest Airlines and Boeing finalize an agreement to add 88 Boeing 717-200 aircraft to its fleet starting in 2013.
In February 2013, FORTUNE magazine ranks Delta the most admired airline in its World’s Most Admired Companies airline industry list.
In 2014, Delta declared Seattle–Tacoma its eighth domestic hub, an important gateway to Asia, and announced the retirement of its aging Boeing B747 400 fleet along with an order for 25 Airbus A350 900 and 25 Airbus A330 900neo aircraft to replace it. Delta retired the last Boeing B747 400 aircraft in December 2017.
In 2015, Delta and Aeromexico applied for an immunized joint venture that began in May 2017. Delta also underwent a cabin branding upgrade, redefining the products it offers into six different cabin service options: Basic Economy, Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+, First Class, Delta Premium Select, and Delta One.
In 2016, Delta announced a trans-Pacific joint venture with Korean Air to compete against those between United Airlines and All Nippon Airways, and American Airlines and Japan Airlines. The Delta-Korean Air joint venture was officially launched in May 2018.
In July 2017, Delta took delivery of first Airbus A350 900 aircraft and became the first North American operator of this state-of-the-art aircraft. The 306-seat A350 900 redefines the international onboard experience, operating primarily on long-haul routes between the US and Asia.
In December 2017, Delta announced an order of 100 Airbus A321neos, with 100 further options, to be delivered from 2020. Configured with a maximum of 197 passengers, the Airbus A321neos will replace the aging Airbus A319, Airbus A320, Boeing 757 200, MD-88, and MD-90 aircraft.
In 2018, Delta entered into a 10-year joint venture agreement with WestJet, as well as an agreement with Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic to combine the existing joint ventures into a single three-party transatlantic joint venture. Both agreements remain subject to regulatory approvals.
In October 2018, Delta received its first Airbus A220 100 aircraft. The new member of the Delta fleet features a modern interior that offers an elevated experience for domestic travelers. The fuel-efficient, state-of-the-art narrow-body aircraft offers all the amenities and luxury of a wide-body aircraft: the widest Main Cabin seats in Delta’s fleet with personal seatback screens and power port, more legroom in Delta Comfort+, modern First Class seats, extra-large windows, and full-spectrum LED ambient lighting.
In January 2019, at the 26th World Travel Awards Caribbean & North America Gala Ceremony, Delta was recognized as leading US airline to Mexico and South America 2019 and North America’s Leading Airline Brand 2019.
In 2019, Delta flew approximately 200 million passengers, being the world’s largest airline by total revenues, as well as the most profitable with five years in a row, from 2015 through 2019, of $5 billion or more in pre-tax income.
In 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Delta made significant adjustments to its network and operations. The COVID-19 related travel restrictions made Delta Air Lines reduce its flight capacity by 40 percent in March, the biggest reduction in operations in the airline’s history, and suspended all flights to continental Europe for 30 days. Delta also undertook several initiatives to protect and restore the business and serve our communities: blocking middle seats through at least March 30, 2021, implemented the Delta CareStandard, eliminated change fees for U.S. customers, etc.
In February 2021, the trans-American Joint Venture Agreement between Delta Air Lines and LATAM, signed in May 2020, received final approval in Brazil. With Uruguay already having ratified the deal, that leaves just the US and Chile to approve the new joint venture that will offer more and improved travel options, shorter connection times, and new routes between North and South America.
During its long history, Delta was involved in only a few deadly incidents, considering the size of its fleet and the huge number of flights. The first one happened in late April, 1947, when a Vultee BT-13 owned by the Tuskegee Aviation Institute landed on top of a Delta DC-3, causing 8 fatalities. Latest deadly incident took place in early July, 1996, when a fan hub of a MD-88 pierced the cabin, causing 2 deaths and 5 injuries.