Delta had already announced that it would be retiring their last seven Boeing 747-400s, once called "The Queen of the Skies," by the end of this year. The planes were mainly used for transoceanic flights, then Hurricane Irma, the strongest storm ever recorded in the region, headed for Florida.
To assist in the urgent evacuation effort, Delta is routing one of its jumbo jets from Detroit, a hub for the airline, to Orlando. The flight isn't free, but fares top out at $399. When it returns to Detroit, passengers will be able to fly anywhere the airline flies outside the Hurricane Irma impacted area.
This comes just days after Delta made news by getting a flight from JFK in New York to San Juan and back out of Puerto Rico with Hurricane Irma on its tail.
The announcement also comes days after several airlines were accused of price gouging for last minute flights out of the hurricane's path. While they were cleared of any wrongdoing, both United and Delta agreed to cap flight costs. Delta announced yesterday that they would extend their Hurricane Irma weather waiver to coastal areas in the states of Georgia and South Carolina.
The evacuation flight will depart Detroit today at 12:15pm. Arriving in Orlando around three o'clock, departure is at 4:00pm. With room for 376 passengers, it's an efficient way to evacuate people without adding additional road traffic or flight traffic to an already congested area.
Delta took a number of steps ahead of Irma. They upsized aircraft flying in affected areas to add 3,300 seats on flights from Punta Cana, Nassau, Freeport, Key West, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Sarasota, and Orlando.
The unmistakable profile of the wide bodied 747 will soon be missing from airports, except for the most famous 747 - Air Force One. Once revered for its luxury and spaciousness fuel economy has been its downfall. But with Delta's evacuation flight The Queen of the Skies will get a chance to perform one last grand gesture before flying off into the sunset of aviation history.