Delta’s first airline service between Dallas, Texas, and Jackson, Mississippi, was
launched in 1929, with a fleet of three 90-mph, 5-passenger Travel Air monoplanes.

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At its peak of production in 1929, the Travel Air Manufacturing Company of Wichita, Kansas, had 650 employees working two shifts a day. Its popular Type 6000 cabin monoplane was a hit that year with businessmen and companies, including Delta Air Service.

In its five years of operation, Travel Air built about 1,700 planes before the Great Depression caused the demand for new planes to plummet. Absorbed by Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical Corporation, most of its facilities closed in 1930. Several of the company’s principals went on to run their own aircraft companies and became household names: Lloyd C. Stearman, Walter H. Beech and Clyde V. Cessna.


“They bought three Travel Airs and started flying from Ft. Worth to Jackson.” Mechanic Gene Berry

Gene Berry and Capt. T.P. “Pre” Ball recall how small Delta’s passenger operations, based in Monroe, Louisiana, were from 1929 into the 1930s.

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In 1928, C.E. Woolman, general manager of Huff Daland Dusters in Monroe, Louisiana, led a group of local investors to purchase the crop-dusting company and begin passenger operations as Delta Air Service. Delta launched flights between Dallas, Texas, and Jackson, Mississippi, on June 17, 1929, with 5-passenger Travel Air planes.

Fares from Dallas to Jackson were $47.25 one way and $90 for a round trip. In today’s dollars, it would translate to $646 one way and $1,230 round trip.

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Bottles of Coca-Cola were first served on Delta flights in 1940, but Delta and Coca-Cola’s partnership can be traced to early investors and directors of Delta and the town of Monroe, Louisiana.

In 1914, Joseph A. Biedenharn, the first to bottle Coca-Cola in 1894, moved to Monroe and opened the Louisiana Coca-Cola Bottling Company. When Huff Daland Dusters, a crop-dusting company based in Monroe, organized as Delta Air Service in 1928, Joseph’s son Malcolm S. Biedenharn became an early investor. From 1930 to 1999, there was a Biedenharn family member on Delta’s Board of Directors.

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Most of Delta's first customers were businessmen traveling for work. Pleasure and vacation travel by air was not yet common. To encourage nervous first-time business flyers, in 1930, Delta published a brochure “Fly for Business and Why” with details about services offered and a schedule of flights between Dallas, Texas, and Birmingham, Alabama.