A State of Innovation: Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines

A Story of Innovation

In 1924, Huff Daland Dusters, a small crop-dusting operation, started operations in Macon, Georgia. That small company would grow into Delta Air Lines. This agricultural flying firm was the first of its kind in the United States. In 1925, just a year after starting the business, the headquarters was relocated to Louisiana. In 1927, Huff Daland extended operations to Peru, and also began an international mail and passenger route on the west coast of South America. The small company was changing quickly.

In 1928, Huff Daland was sold, and the new owners named the company Delta Air Service. Under its new name, the company began passenger routes in the United States, the first from Texas to Mississippi. Soon, service extended to Atlanta and headquarters of the company moved back to Georgia in 1941. By 1946, Delta had grown into a full passenger-service airline and became the first to offer nonstop flights from Chicago to Miami. Delta also began to offer discounted coach seating and night flights to make flying more affordable for average Americans.

In 1953, Delta’s merger with Chicago and Southern Air Lines allowed Delta to begin international routes. Delta also continued to gain popular routes in the United States. In 1955, Delta began service from Atlanta to New York. In 1961, Delta offered the first nonstop service from Atlanta to Los Angeles and offered service from Los Angeles to the Caribbean. In 1978, Delta began Trans-Atlantic service with flights from Atlanta to London. In 1984, Delta began flights to Hawaii. Finally, in 1987, Delta began its first trans-Pacific service from Atlanta to Portland to Tokyo. By 2008, Delta offered service to every region of the world.

Delta was also on the front lines of technological innovation. In 1956, the company installed radar on all of its aircraft, making flying safer. Delta also used technology to boost its service in 1962 by implementing an “instant” reservations system. This platform was constantly updated over the years, notably in 1964 with IBM computers. In the 1990s and 2000s, Delta also implemented new technology service such as online ticket purchase, check-in kiosks, and online, virtual check-in.

Delta has become a strong part of American life. Delta was named the official airline of the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta. Delta transported the Olympic flame from Athens, Greece to Los Angeles for the torch relay. Delta also transported the flame for the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.

Delta has also served in two American wars: World War II and Desert Storm/Desert Shield. During World War II, Delta trained pilots and mechanics for the war effort. It also modified planes to be used as cargo ships. Again, in 1991 with the U.S. involvement in Kuwait, Delta and twenty-three other civilian airlines participated in CRAF, or Civil Reserve Air Fleet, which carried passengers and military cargo.

Delta Air Lines began as a small crop-dusting company in Macon in the 1920s. By the 1980s, that small company had transformed into a global carrier headquartered in Atlanta. Today, Delta is one of the largest airlines in the world with nonstop flights to six continents and access to over 400 cities.

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