The 727 has proved very successful with airlines world-wide because of its capability of landing in smaller runways while flying medium range routes. This effectively allowed airlines to attract passengers from cities with large populations but smaller airports to worldwide touristic destinations. One of the features that gave the 727 its ability to land on shorter runways was its unique wing design. Through flap extension and leading edge slat deployment, the 727 could almost double its wing surface area, allowing it to fly with great stability at very slow speeds. The 727's three powerful engines enabled quick take-offs from the shorter runways, as well.
Even as the 747s came about during 1970, international airlines worldwide still needed the 727. Many of the airlines were from medium to large sized countries and needed to transport their passengers to the larger communities where they would catch the bigger airliners for their international flights.
In addition to that, the 727 proved extremely popular because the range of flights it could cover meant that the 727 would prove efficient for short to medium range international flights in places like Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia North America, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
The 727 also has proved popular with cargo airlines and charter airlines. Federal Express began the cargo airline revolution in 1975 utilizing 727s. Many cargo airlines worldwide now employ the 727 as a work horse. Other companies use the 727 as a way to transport passengers to their resorts or cruise ships. Such was the example of Carnival Cruise Lines, which used both the 727 and 737 to fly both regular flights and flights to transport their passengers to cities that harbored their ships. Carnival used the jets on their airline division, Carnival Airlines.
The 727 proved so popular that many have described it as the "DC-3 of the Jet Age," meaning, like he aforementioned plane, the 727 was a reliable and versatile plane that formed the core of many start-up airlines' fleets.
The 727 is also one of the loudest commercial jetliners, so most models in the United States must be fitted with Hush Kits to reduce engine noise if they are to land at most airports.
By the turn of the 21st century the 727 was still a vital part of some American major airlines' (United, American, Delta, Northwest, Continental, Alaska, to name a few) fleet, but events would soon change that. The post 9/11 ecconomic climate was perhaps the US Airline Industry's worst trauma since deregulation. Most airlines were already switching to twinjets, airplanes with only two engines. Twinjets tend to be much more efficient than planes with three (like the 727) or four jets. Also, the 727 was one of the last airliners in service to have a three person crew, including a Flight Engineer, a crewmember whose job is done by computerized systems on newer planes.
Faced with higher fuel costs, lower sales and the extra expense of maintaining older planes, most major airlines began phasing 727s out of their fleet. Delta, the last major US carrier to do so, retired its last 727 in 2003. However, the 727 is still flying for smaller start-up airlines, cargo airlines, and charter airlines, and it's also becoming increasingly popular as a private means of transportation.
Major airlines that have flown the jet include Delta Airlines, Mexicana, Air France, American, Eastern Airlines, Viasa, Pan Am, Air Canada, Dominicana, Iberia, Avianca, Aerolineas Argentinas, British Airways, Lufthansa, ANA, Australian Airlines, Copa, Fed Ex and, among Charter Airlines, Carnival Airlines and Hapag Lloyd. In addition to that, the USPS uses the type to fly mail from city to city every day.
On June 18, 2003, a 727 formely used by American was stolen from Luanda's international airport in Angola. According to the AOL News, most intelligence agents believe the missing plane to be in the hands of terrorists or drug dealers.