Delta closing in on 76-seater announcement

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Delta Air Lines says it remains on track to announce a 76-seat aircraft order for its revamped regional fleet by year-end.

The confirmation to Flightglobal re-affirms the Atlanta-based carrier's previous statements that it would make a decision on the aircraft type by the end of 2012.

The two candidates are the Bombardier CRJ900 and the Embraer E-175, and Delta has said it is in talks with both airframers. The possibility exists for the carrier to split the order between the aircraft types.

Delta will cut 218 50-seat regional jets from its fleet as early as next year to make room for 70 new 76-seat aircraft, which will flown by its regional partners under the Delta Connection brand.

Delta's partners fly a mixed fleet of 76-seat Embraer and Bombardier aircaft today. Pinnacle Airlines, SkyWest and ExpressJet operate the CRJ900, and Republic's Shuttle America and Trans States' Compass Airlines fly the Embraer 175.

Delta's feeder Comair had operated the CRJ900 until its last flight in September, and most of those aircraft have since been leased by sister airlines ExpressJet and SkyWest. Those airlines also plan to start flying 16 more CRJ900s in 2013 for Delta. Pinnacle owns and operates those aircraft but will phase them out early next year as part of its bankruptcy plan.