Delta Air Lines is evaluating releasing a request for proposals for a widebody aircraft order in the coming months.
The Atlanta-based carrier is looking at replacing significant number of its Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 767-300 fleets with the order, sources tell Flightglobal.
Delta 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.
The airline is understood to be looking at the Airbus A330, Airbus A350, Boeing 777-300ER and Boeing 787. It would also consider a re-engined A330neo if Airbus decides to proceed with the programme.
Delta prefers aircraft with a proven track record to the latest variants that carry some operational risk. In recent years, it has ordered Airbus A321s and Boeing 737-900ERs to replace its larger narrowbodies, foregoing for the time being the in-development next generation A321neo and 737 Max 9.
“My balance sheet is not equipped to take [manufacturers’] technical risk,” said Richard Anderson, chairman and chief executive of Delta, in a recent interview with Airline Business. “Once those airplanes are proven, then we’ll be in a position to be able to operate them.”
Delta disclosed options for six Boeing 777-200LRs in a recent annual stock exchange filing. It is unclear whether it could firm these options as part of the RFP.
Rating agency Moody’s Investor Services anticipated a widebody order to replace the 747 and 767 fleets from Delta in December 2013.
“We believe that the widebody fleet remains in need of investment to remain competitive in the long-run on international missions,” wrote Moody’s analysts Jonathan Root and Michael Mulvaney.
Delta declines to comment on the potential RFP.