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Comment: Age before beauty

Delta Air Lines boss Richard Anderson asserts that operating costs of his fuel-thirsty Boeing MD-80s are more than a match for the 737-800, an airliner design two generations ahead of the T-tailed twinjet.

The reason, he says, is that while the efficient 737s cost upwards of $350,000 a month just in ownership, the older, mid-generation twinjet's "no debt" status gives it a big head start, despite current high oil-prices. Crew and maintenance costs are also lower, he adds.

Delta's strong support for an airliner that was developed in the 1970s from the ubiquitous Douglas DC-9 is somewhat ironic. Three decades ago it was a Delta requirement that started the new-generation narrowbody ball rolling when in 1981 it stated the need for a new airliner with 150 seats - no more and no less. This requirement was instrumental in Airbus creating the A320, which of course prompted Boeing to rework its CFM56-powered 737 family into the Next Generation models.

In the end, Delta - traditionally a big McDonnell Douglas user - selected the MD-80 for its 1980s needs, and famously never ordered Toulouse's electric jet, despite being in on its creation.

But now, thanks to its takeover of Northwest, it has finally got its hands on the European twinjet, perhaps allowing it to at last establish whether its selection of Long Beach's finest was a prudent move.

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