TBT (Throwback Thursday) in Aviation History: Song Airlines

Song tails (Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: Art01852)

In the early 2000s, Delta and other legacy carriers had a major headache to deal with: budget carriers. Airlines such as Southwest and jetBlue had started to dominate the Florida and other leisure markets and steal passengers from Delta. After Delta’s failed Delta Express model in the 1990s, the airline decided to try again, and thus Song Airlines was born. Song was started in 2003 as an airline-within-an-airline at almost the same time that United started their airline-within-an-airline called TED. Delta announced plans for the airline in 2002 and started painting 48 of the Delta mainline fleet’s Boeing 757s into the lime green Song livery.

The airline consisted of very bright colors, with a lime green stream wrapping around the white fuselage. The lime green tail was the only place you could find the airline name as the side of the plane only read “flysong.com.” The airline also featured an all economy class interior with the 199 seats being blue with each seat having either a green, orange, or purple siding to them. Delta experimented on Song with their inflight entertainment system, giving Song passengers the ability to watch Dish satellite TV as well as track the flight on the screen.In addition to some of these perks, Delta passengers were still able to use their SkyMiles on Song.

To compete with budget carriers, Song focused on the leisure market, with most of the market focused on flying passengers between the northeast, the Caribbean and the southern United States. Song also included other flights, such as flights to Las Vegas and other western cities from the northeast. The airline operated a total of 17 destinations nationwide.

Song also became the promotion for Delta’s involvement in the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. To celebrate their partnership, Delta painted a Song Boeing 757 (N610DL) with the lime green replaced with pink. The nose of the jet would feature the breast cancer ribbon and the website on the fuselage was moved closer to the front door. The aircraft would retrain its pink color but be given a new paint job when Song remerged with Delta but would eventually be painted into mainline colors in 2010 when the pink colors were given to a Boeing 767-400.

However, financial problems arose at Delta and in 2005 Delta filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. As part of the reorganization, Delta decided to pull the plug on the low cost carrier. Song had been losing numbers but actually doing better than what experts projected. In order to save money, the airline needed to get their finances in order, and on October 25, 2005, Delta announced that Song would cease operations. The 48 Boeing 757s would slowly transition back to Delta colors and be given their original 26 first, 158 economy seat formation as the airline would use the 757s on international and domestic flights. Song slowly disappeared and was removed from all Delta schedules in late February of 2006. Song would operate their last flight on April 30, 2006 as flight 2056 departed Las Vegas for Orlando.

Most of Song has disappeared from Delta as the airline never had much time to leave a lasting impact on the main carrier. Delta still uses the Song IFE and gates at most of their former hubs. Most of Delta’s former Song 757s still exists, but some have since been parked in the desert due to their age. Although the airline didn’t leave much of an impact on the North American market, they did give jetBlue and other low cost carriers a “run for their money” in the low cost leisure market.

Ian McMurtry

Ian McMurtry

Ian has been an avgeek since 2004 when he started spotting US Airways Express planes at Johnstown Airport in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He now lives in Wichita and enjoys spotting planes in Kansas City and Wichita as well as those flying at high altitudes over his home. He is a pilot with more than 40 hours of experience behind a Cessna 172, Diamond DA-20, and Piper PA-28. He flies Southwest Airlines on most of his domestic flights and Icelandair when flying to Europe. Ian’s route map spans from Iceland and Alaska in the north to St. Maarten in the south. He is a student at Wichita State University, where he will study aerospace and mechanical engineering.
Ian McMurtry