Delta Connection was founded in 1984 as a means of expanding the Delta network to smaller markets via partnerships with regional airlines. Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) began Delta Connection service on March 1, 1984, from their hub in Atlanta, and soon had a substantial presence at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. ASA was a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Air Lines under the Delta Connection, Inc., holding company from May 11, 1999, to September 7, 2005, when it was purchased by SkyWest, Inc, the parent company of SkyWest Airlines.
Ransome Airlines operated Delta Connection flights from March 1, 1984 to June 1, 1986, when it was purchased by Pan Am. Comair began Delta Connection service on September 1, 1984. In January 2000, Comair became a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Air Lines. Rio Airways operated Delta Connection flights from their hub in Dallas/Fort Worth from June 1, 1984 to December 14, 1986, when the airline declared bankruptcy. Business Express Airlines operated Delta Connection flights in the northeastern US and Canada from June 1, 1986 to March 15, 2000. The company was purchased by AMR Corporation in 1999 and integrated into the American Eagle Airlines system in 2000. Following the acquisition of Western Airlines by Delta Air Lines, SkyWest Airlines, which had been operating code share service flying as Western Express for Western, became a Delta Connection carrier in 1987. Trans States Airlines operated Delta Connection flights from March 1998 to March 31, 2000, mainly from their focus cities in Boston and New York.
On November 2, 2004, Atlantic Coast Airlines ended service as a Delta Connection Carrier. Atlantic Coast Airlines reinvented itself as a low fare carrier called Independence Air, based at Washington Dulles International Airport.
On December 22, 2004, Delta Air Lines announced that Republic Airways would order and operate 16 Embraer 170 aircraft under the Delta Connection banner. Since then, it has been announced that Republic Airways subsidiary Shuttle America would operate the flights. The initial flight took place on September 1, 2005. On May 4, 2005, Delta Air Lines announced that Mesa Air Group subsidiary Freedom Airlines would operate up to 30 Bombardier CRJ-200 aircraft under the Delta Connection banner beginning in October 2005. Shortly after the announcement, the decision was made for Freedom Airlines to operate the Embraer ERJ 145 for Delta Connection instead of the CRJ. After a legal battle with Mesa Air Group, Delta and Freedom Airlines terminated their contract on September 1, 2010. On December 21, 2006, it was announced that Big Sky Airlines would become a Delta Connection carrier, using eight Beechcraft 1900 turboprops out of Boston Logan International Airport.
On March 1, 2007, it was announced that ExpressJet would operate 10 Embraer ERJ 145XR aircraft under the Delta Connection banner beginning in June 2007 on flights from Los Angeles International Airport. It was later announced that ExpressJet would operate an additional eight aircraft as Delta Connection. On July 3, 2008, Delta and ExpressJet announced that they had terminated their agreement and that ExpressJet operations as Delta Connection would end by September 1, 2008. On April 30, 2007, it was announced that Pinnacle Airlines would operate 16 Bombardier CRJ-900 under the Delta Connection banner starting in December 2007.
On August 9, 2017, it was announced that Delta and ExpressJet would terminate their agreement early with all operations ending mid-2018. The remaining dual-class aircraft financed by Delta would be transferred to Endeavor while ExpressJet would redistribute their financed aircraft to other flying partners. Delta cited ExpressJet’s lacking operational performance and focus on trimming their 50-seat fleet as the main reason for terminating the contract early.
Merging Delta Connection and Northwest Airlink Edit
The merger of Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines meant that Northwest’s regional brand, Northwest Airlink, would be merged into Delta Connection. The new Delta Connection would include the regional airlines from both the original Delta and Northwest. On November 8, 2008, Delta and Mesaba Airlines, a former fully owned regional subsidiary of Northwest Airlines that operated as Northwest Airlink, announced that the seven CRJ-900 aircraft previously operated by Freedom as well as eight new-order aircraft would be operated for Delta Connection beginning February 12, 2009.
Citing cost reductions, Delta Air Lines sold former Northwest regional subsidiary Mesaba Airlines on July 1, 2010 to Pinnacle Airlines Corp. for $62 million. Its headquarters were moved to Pinnacle’s in Memphis on December 26, 2011. Mesaba merged its operations into Pinnacle on January 4, 2012. The same day, Trans States Holdings purchased Compass Airlines for $20.5 million. It has maintained both regional operations with the airlines as of January 1, 2012.
Delta announced that it would add in-flight WiFi to 223 Delta Connection aircraft beginning in 2011.
Regional carrier GoJet Airlines, also owned by Trans States Holdings, began operations from Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport to cities in the Midwest using 15 CRJ-700 aircraft on January 11, 2012.
Following a merger between Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) and ExpressJet, Delta Connection flights operated under the latter’s name and ceased operations as ASA. All routes remained the same, but the flights began operating as ExpressJet beginning in 2012.
On July 25, 2012, Delta announced that its wholly owned subsidiary Comair would cease all operations at midnight on September 28, 2012.
On May 1, 2013, as a condition of exiting bankruptcy, Pinnacle Airlines became a subsidiary of Delta and was subsequently renamed Endeavor Air.
On December 31, 2014, Chautauqua operated its last flight for Delta Connection. All aircraft and crew & maintenance bases would be absorbed by the Shuttle America certificate. The conclusion of this service also removed the last operating three seat wide aircraft from the Delta Connection fleet.
Operators and fleet