Delta possible A330neo launch customer: Analyst

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Delta Air Lines is a potential launch customer for the proposed re-engined Airbus A330, writes Morgan Stanley analyst John Godyn.

He posits that the Atlanta-based carrier would benefit from “potential launch customer pricing” for the updated A330 – dubbed the A330neo – which would allow it to better compete with competitors who operate the Boeing 787, in a report on 26 March.

The A330neo “might not move forward without a large anchor customer like Delta”, adds Godyn.

Delta is known to be considering the A330, A330neo, Airbus A350, Boeing 777-300ER and 787 as possible replacements for majority of its ageing Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 767-300 fleets. It released a request for proposals to the airframers earlier in March.

The airline operates 16 747-400s and 74 767-300s, Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database shows. With an average age of 21 years and 20 years, respectively, the types are among the oldest in its widebody fleet.

Godyn is not alone suggesting strong interest from Delta in the A330neo.

“There is one large US airline that’s, I think, very interested in the re-engined A330,” said Steven Udvar-Hazy, chief executive of Air Lease, referring to Delta on the sidelines of the aviation finance industry’s International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) Americas conference in San Diego earlier in March.

“They have a large number of ageing 767s and 747-400s that they need to do something [about] in the next five years," he says.

Steve Mason, vice-president of aircraft analysis at CIT Aerospace, says that in his estimation the European airframer will likely make a decision on the A330neo programme within the next six months with an entry-into-service date of 2017 or 2018.

Airbus has said that it plans to make a decision on the A330neo programme sometime in 2014.