Through the Decades

Explore Delta's history and achievements and discover how the airline went from dusting crops to serving over 320 destinations on six continents.

Choose a decade:

1980s - Delta expands services and routes


1980 Delta continues to rank #1 major U.S. airline for customer service by Department of Transportation each year. Continues development of computer reservations systems (CRS). First airline to make a major move from film to video in-flight entertainment, equipping its entire transatlantic L-1011 fleet in the early 1980s.

1981 Launches Frequent Flyer program (changed to SkyMiles in 1995).

1982 After Delta suffers financial losses, employees raise $30 million in payroll deductions to purchase the company’s first Boeing 767, named The Spirit of Delta.

1983 Introduces computer-generated boarding passes and automated advance seat selection, greatly improving boarding process in gate areas. First major U.S. carrier to meet new federal standards reducing flyover noise in airport neighborhoods. Boeing 737 joins fleet.

1984 Delta named one of top 10 companies in book The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America. Delta strengthens ties to regional airline partners through its new Delta Connection program. Begins service to Hawaii. Installs air-to-ground telephones—two wall-mounted phones in cabin of domestic L-1011 jets. Boeing 757 joins fleet.

1985 Nipton Nelson “Nip” Hill is first Delta employee to reach 50 years of active service.

1987 Western Airlines merges with Delta. Delta is now the fourth-largest U.S. carrier and fifth-largest world carrier with new hubs in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City and service to Mexico and Alaska. Transpacific service begins: Atlanta to Portland, Oregon to Tokyo, Japan. MD-88 joins fleet; delivered in MD-82 configuration. Ronald W. Allen becomes Chairman and CEO.

1988 Delta's beloved signature Biscoff cookies added to complimentary snacks served on board to customers.

1989 Delta Fantastic Flyer program for children launches with Dusty the “Delta Air Lion” mascot, kid-friendly meals and a quarterly activity magazine.

Frequent Flyer program launch 1981
Boeing 767  The Spirit of Delta
Fantastic Flyer Dusty the Delta Air Lion logo 1989