In August 2008, there was a worldwide total of 934 MD-80 aircraft in airline service, including American Airlines with 304, Alitalia with 74, and Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), which owes the plane which crashed on Wednesday, flying 44 of the planes.

Spanair fleet

Wednesday's crash involved a plane flown by Spanair, a Spanish carrier wholly owned by SAS.

In July, the carrier unveiled a restructuring programme that is expected to lead to 1,100 job cuts out of a total of 4,000  employees.

The MD-80 series have seating capacity of up to 172 passengers. On low-cost or charter flights they seat between 161 and 165 people.

Just over 900 MD-80 series planes are still in operation worldwide, but they are being phased out slowly due to fuel inefficency.

Nine routes, considered not to be strategic and unprofitable, including Madrid-Vienna, Madrid-Munich, Barcelona-Zurich and  Bilbao-Malaga, will also be abolished this autumn.

Spanair also plans to ground 15 of its aircraft in September and October in a bid to reduce its losses linked to high fuel costs.

Following the cutbacks, Spanair is expected to operate at 80 per cent of its capacity but will remain the second biggest carrier on the Spanish market with 260 daily flights and 48 destinations.