Delta Air Lines Reaffirms Desire For Up To 200 Boeing 797s

Delta Air Lines has reiterated its desire to purchase up to 200 797’s from Boeing. In an interview this week, the carrier’s boss made it clear he was still willing to make substantial purchases.

Delta B767 take-off
Delta tempts Boeing with the suggestion of a large order for the new NMA. Photo: Richard Snyder via Wikimedia

Enticing Boeing to step up its efforts to develop the B797, Ed Bastian said his airline would, within the next decade, look for a suitable replacement for its retired 757 and 767.

The replacement of the planes with Boeing’s New Midsize Airplane (NMA) would be Delta’s preferred course of action. But Boeing’s development of the NMA has been parked due to the company’s ongoing efforts to return the maligned MAX to the skies.

Unfettered, Delta continues to hold out for Boeing’s NMA and has already said that it is prepared to bide its time. Ed Bastian told Bloomberg,

I do anticipate they will do it. I hope they will do it,” Bastian told Bloomberg. “We have a significant need between the retirements of the 757 and 767 fleets. That’s almost 200 aircraft over the next decade.”

797 in the hold

The NMA was first conceived in 2015. Thereafter, concepts of design were drawn up. The idea of a composite twin-aisle midsize type was met favorably by various airlines. Growing interest led Boeing to predict a demand of between four and five thousand was likely.

Boeing 797
Boeing 737 MAX or The Boeing 797. Photo: Simple Flying.

A conceptual design released in 2018 heightened industry expectation that Boeing could bring the NMA to market within a decade. However, the grounding of Boeing’s MAX fleet in March of this year put the manufacturer’s plans out of kilter.

With two fatal MAX accidents deemed to have been caused by anti-stall software, Boeing has since fought to maintain the credibility of the type. As a result, the 797’s development has been put on the back burner.

The company has already refused to make any decision on the NMA until the MAX is airborne. But Boeing has not shelved the project completely. CEO Dennis Muilenburg told Bloomberg, the NMA concept was, “helping us create the production system of the future and that’s going to be valuable for the long run.”

Airbus “at the table”

Meanwhile, Airbus continues to garner worldwide support for its new types. It recently monopolized on Boeing’s misfortune and marketed a long-range XLR version of its A321neo.

Concept A321XLR in flight
The A321XLR delivers “unprecedented” range, according to Airbus. Photo: Airbus press release

According to Bloomberg, American Airlines ordered 50 XLRs in June to replace its 757s. And JetBlue intends to be Europe-bound with the type in 2021.

Delta has made no secret of the fact that it too is interested in a sizable order of the XLR.

As part of a recent fleet regeneration, the Atlanta-based carrier ordered 75 A220s from Airbus, a purchase that did not pass unnoticed by other US carriers, nor Boeing. Delta was the first US carrier to order the A220 following the type’s C-Series reassignment.

Obviously Airbus is at the table and they are offering us product today, but we want to wait and see what Boeing can create,” Bastian said.

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.”