Delta wants Boeing to develop the 797…and is dangling 200 aircraft orders as a prize.
Speaking to Bloomberg in New York, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said:
I do anticipate they will do it. I hope they will do it. We have a significant need between the retirements of the 757 and 767 fleets. That’s almost 200 aircraft over the next decade.
That’s quite an incentive, but does little to push Boeing right now, which still finds itself in the midst of a crisis over its 737 MAX program.
The MAX has diverted all of Boeing’s attention as engineers who had been working on the 797 program, officially called NMA (new midmarket airplane), have been re-assigned to get the MAX back in the air. Boeing’s 737 MAX program
is was the largest source of profit and until that is back in the air, no decision will be made on the 797.
But Boeing’s pain has been Airbus’ gain. The European aircraft manufacturer has been locking up A321neo XLR orders, mid-range aircraft with a range similar to that of the Boeing 757. In the USA, American and JetBlue have already placed orders.
Even with an Airbus advantage, Bastian says he is in no rush to place an order:
Obviously Airbus is at the table and they are offering us product today, but we want to wait and see what Boeing can create. We’ll need to make some decisions relative to the Airbus fleet sooner, but we’re not going to make a big decision until we know for sure what Boeing is going to do.
Bastian’s patience over the 797 program must come as a comfort to Boeing. But don’t think Delta has any loyalty beyond securing the greatest value at the lowest cost. Perhaps one day Delta will be the launch customer of the 797…at a discount that would even impress Willy Walsh.