Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian sees a “place” for the Boeing 737 Max at the carrier as it looks for opportunistic deals to reshape its fleet over the next decade. This would be Delta’s first major Boeing order in a decade.
“No news to report [but] we’re constantly talking to [Boeing],” Bastian told pilots in a webinar on September 20. “There’s certainly a place for [the Max] if we can figure out how to bring them in.”
Bastian expressed some surprise that Boeing and Delta had not yet reached a deal for the jets. Delta declined to comment for this story.
Delta stands alone among the four big U.S. carriers — American Airlines, Delta, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines — without either the Max in its fleet or on order. And both Southwest and United have used the crisis to place orders for hundreds of additional Maxes, including a deal for 200 737-8s and -10s from United in June.
The Max orders followed the FAA’s recertification of the jet last November after a nearly two-year grounding. Operators, including Alaska Airlines, Copa Airlines and Gol, all report a smooth return-to-service with passenger threats to book away from Max-operated flights proving unfounded.
And Delta has a first-hand source of information on the Max. Its equity partner Aeromexico — Delta owns a 51 percent stake in its parent Grupo Aeromexico — operated 14 737-8s and -9s at the end of June with orders for another 24 aircraft. And, in a vote of confidence for the Max, signed a lease for 12 more in July.
Delta has not sat out the pandemic recovery ordering spree. After retiring its Boeing 777s, MD-88s and MD-90s early in 2020, the airline has exercised options for 55 Airbus A321neos — boosting its firm commitments for the type to 155 aircraft. And in July, Delta unveiled deals to lease seven used Airbus A350s from AerCap, and buy 29 used Boeing 737-900ERs from Castlelake.
“We continue to see opportunity in the marketplace, not just for new [aircraft] but for gently used,” Bastian told pilots.
Delta’s last major Boeing order was for 100 737-900ERs in 2011. The carrier exercised several options for the jet in 2015 and 2017.
In addition to a possible Max order, Delta is looking at opportunities for more new and used A350s, he said. And in the airline’s talks with Airbus it may “potentially more A220s,” Bastian added.
Delta had outstanding orders for 45 A220s and 27 A350s — including the seven leased aircraft — at the end of June. It operated 50 A220s and 15 A350s, as well as 207 737 Next Generation jets, at the same time.