Delta Air Lines has signed a definitive 20-year, 644-aircraft, sole-supplier contract with Boeing, but says that the manufacturer cannot enforce any exclusivity provisions unless permitted by the European Commission(EC).

The EC has said that it will examine the contract, which Boeing maintains meets the terms imposed as a condition of approving its merger with McDonnell Douglas (MDC) .

Delta says that the sole-supplier contract guarantees it the pricing and flexibility benefits of the original "exclusive" agreement. These include the ability to adjust deliveries, substitute between Boeing models and trade-in aircraft - and even to buy non-Boeing types in certain unspecified categories.

The deal supports the replacement and rationalisation of Delta's domestic fleet, and covers 106 firm orders for delivery from 1998 through to 2006, valued at $6.7 billion, as well as 124 options and 414 "rolling options" for aircraft deliveries through to 2018. Delta is still evaluating its international fleet requirements, which may lead to the airline exercising its 777 options.

The engine component of the order is still under negotiation, although an $800 million deal is being tied up for the CFM International CFM56-7 engine, which powers the 737. In April Delta selected General Electric to power the 767s and the Rolls-Royce Trent for the 777 options (Flight International, 9-15 April, P6). While the airline's existing 90-strong 757 fleet is entirely Pratt & Whitney PW2000-powered, the selection of an engine for the additional 757s, including that for 110 options, is still open.

Delta also holds 16 options on the Boeing MD-11, with one of the 15 aircraft on firm order still to be delivered. Delta adds that its 15 firm orders and 60 options on the Boeing MD-90 stay in place. It is widely believed, however, that these former MDC products will be removed from Delta's fleet.

Source: Flight International