Delta Air Lines began in the early 1920’s as a crop dusting operation, known as the Huff Daland crop dusting company, and was based out of Macon, Ga. This was the first agricultural flying company in existence at the time and grew into the world’s largest privately owned fleet of aircraft (18 planes) by the mid 1920’s. At the turn of the decade, co-founder C.E. Woolman lead a movement to purchase Huff Daland and re-branded the company as Delta Air Service, named after the Mississippi River Delta region the company would navigate.
Throughout the 1930’s, the company operated various mail and passenger routes between Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, and even an international route to Peru. By the middle of the century, Delta had shifted headquarters to Atlanta, Ga., made large contributions to the war effort by converting aircraft for military training purposes, created a freight shipping service using Douglas DC-3 aircraft, and increased its fleet to 644 available seats utilizing the pressurized cabins of the Douglas DC-6 aircraft. Delta, during this time period, is noted to have also inspired the hub and spoke layout of airport terminals which connected people to other outgoing flights.
Major changes came for the airline by the end of the 1950’s, with the arrival of the jet age. Delta launched service utilizing the jet powered Douglas DC-8 in 1959, this aircraft had a range of 2700 miles, cut flight times between major cities by 40%, and could fly twice as many passengers as the large piston powered aircraft of the time. The airline now offered flights all over the U.S. and it was at this time that the Delta logo was changed to the red, white, and blue widget that we know today (although today the logo is solid red in color).
By 1980, major changes and advances in all of civil aviation had truly blossomed into fruition with the advent of computers, larger more sophisticated aircraft such as the Boeing 747, and the passing of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. Delta merged with Northeast Airlines, began flying routes from Atlanta to London, and managed steady operation and growth post deregulation despite many other airlines filing for bankruptcy.
As the new century unfolded, Delta Air Lines continued exponential growth becoming one of the largest airlines in the country. A merger with Western Airlines in 1987, the acquisition of Pan Am’s transatlantic routes in 1991, and a final merger with Northwest Airlines in 2008 meant Delta now had routes all over the world. Delta like many other airlines faced very difficult times post 9/11 and during the recession. The airline made significant cost improvements across its operation and the merger with Northwest Airlines ended up pushing the airline back into profitable business.
From the humble financial portfolio as a crop dusting outfit in the mid twentieth century, to the multi-billion dollar portfolio of a major airline in the twenty first century, Delta Air Lines has risen as a...