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If the Boeing 717 has the familiar look of the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 it’s because this twin-engine, single-aisle regional commuter aircraft began its days as a derivative of the sturdy DC-9 before being re-branded following the $13-Billion, 1997 merger of the two American aviation giants. Despite the new model name however airlines were unwilling to take a flyer on the 717 and so only 156 were built before production ended in 2006. Delta Airlines is the largest operator of Boeing 717 aircraft with 91 aircraft flying regional routes around North America making up 10% of the airline’s fleet as the time of writing.
The Economy seat lay-out is an uncommon 2 + 3 configuration with 78 main cabin Economy seats, 20 extra legroom Comfort + and 12 First Class seats in a two-by-two seat arrangement. My airfare included complimentary advance seat assignment so I selected 16A just behind the Comfort + section on the two-seat side of the aircraft and the legroom of 31-inches was just enough for this 5-foot-10 flyer for a short sub 3-hour flight Edmonton – Minneapolis but taller travelers may want to consider paying for the upgrade to Comfort + for the extra 3-inches of seat pitch.
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When selecting an economy seat on a future Delta Boeing 717 flight, I’ll opt to sit further back as seat 26A has two windows. If having a view if important I’d recommend against assigned seats any further back as rows 28 & 29 are obscured by the fuselage-mounted engines.
The seat width of 18.1-inches is a fraction wider than newer jetliners and the leather seats comfortable enough for a shorter flight but according to this report Delta is moving ahead with plans to restrict the seat recline to two inches.
With no in-seat entertainment units, there are no under seats wiring or boxes so the foot well is large enough for a small backpack, briefcase or purse. All rows of seats include in-seat power USB and power plugs.
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The overhead bins are generous enough to hold enough bags for a full flight as I found when boarding among the last passengers in Delta’s Main 3 boarding order with only Basic economy passengers boarding later however it’s luck of the draw and I was preparing myself for a lack of bin space and being forced to check my carry-on. For those passengers not wanting to risk finding no overhead bin space upon boarding, Delta sells Priority Boarding in the Main 1 zone for USD$15 per segment but note this fee is lost if the itinerary is changed as it’s not transferable to a new flight.
With an average Boeing 717 fleet age of just over 18-years there are bound to be a few more mechanical delays than newer aircraft as I encountered departing Minneapolis however the speedy substitution of another 717 on hand prevented it from being a lengthy delay so applauded the airline’s efforts to minimize inconvenience to passengers.
The Boeing 717 isn’t without some quirks as frequent flyers on other regional jets such as the Bombardier CRJ are likely familiar with including stooping over to access seats because of low overhead luggage bins however the Delta Airlines workhorse delivers a smooth flight and comfortable enough in-flight experience that a short flight passes quickly. If given the choice, I’d rather fly the Embraer 190 for its increased cabin comfort however its poor cold weather record made it temperamental so the rugged 717 in an able alternative when necessary.