Delta was looking for a replacement for its fleet of DC-9s and, when Southwest took over AirTran and decided to dispose of their fleet of Boeing 717s, Delta was the customer for the jets. At first they were hard to see but it appears that Southwest got rid of them very quickly and Delta did not hang around before getting them painted and configured for their services. Now I see them all over the place.
I first came across them on the east coast but now they are a regular feature of west coast operations. SFO gets a lot of them, as does LAX. I think some of them are running what almost amounts to a shuttle operation between the two airports. The 717 is obviously a DC-9 derivative but the more modern engines give the proportions of the jet a different feel.
When Southwest bought AirTran, they inherited a mixed fleet of 737s and 717s. AirTran had been a 717 only fleet for a while but had expanded to include 737s as they grew and the production of the 717 ended. It didn’t take too long for Southwest to announce that the 717s were going away. Where to was the question. That was soon answered when Delta picked them all up. Consequently, there has been a steady stream of 717s showing up in Delta colors recently.
I have come across a few of them recently on both sides of the country. Despite the age of the basic DC-9 design, the updates introduced and the chunkier profile of the more modern engines means that there is something slightly different about the appearance of the jet. I quite like the look of it. Previously, the majority of the examples I had seen had been Hawaiian (including those I had ridden on). It is nice that the type has found a new home which means they shall be around in the US for a while to come.