Combining the fleet of Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines has diminished the need for previously-planned replacements for Northwest, which could result in fewer Boeing 787s for the combined carrier than originally planned.

Northwest became the US launch customer for the 787 with 18 firm orders for the aircraft.

Delta and Northwest officially merged in October, and today during an investor presentation carrier EVP network planning and revenue management Glen Hauenstein said the carrier does not now need as many aircraft to replace older Northwest Boeing 747-400s.

Hauenstein believes the combined Delta has 777s in its fleet "offset the requirements" of the 777 versus the 787. But he also stresses Delta has not expressed its full intent for the 787.

Adding clarity to the 787 situation Delta CEO Richard Anderson says the carrier is unsure of "where the 787 is in terms of deliveries" and the carrier does not "have the capital for that in the three year plan".

In broader comments Anderson stresses Delta is building discipline around capital noting the industry "historically places massive orders for airplanes", while not fully understanding the economics of a given aircraft.

"We're not going to do that," says Anderson. "We're going to fully utilize what we have."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news