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Delta puts off fleet decision until CSeries tariff ruling

Delta Air Lines is holding off on making any decisions on its narrowbody fleet plan until the US rules on the dumping complaint pending against the Bombardier CSeries.

At stake is the status of the Atlanta-based carrier's order for 75 Bombardier CS100 aircraft and whether they can be delivered from the airframer's Montreal facility with or without a 292% import duty.

Delta is waiting for the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to issue its final ruling on the possible tariffs by the end of January in the case brought by Boeing in 2017, says chief executive Ed Bastian during a quarter earnings presentation today.

Boeing alleges that Delta's order for the CS100 at below-market prices harmed it even though it does not sell an aircraft that directly competes with the smaller CSeries variant.

Bastian repeats today that the airline will not pay tariffs on the CSeries, a position that could force Delta to wait until a possible second assembly line for the aircraft in Mobile, Alabama, opens. That line, which is dependent on the approval of a 50.01% investment by Airbus in the programme, could open by 2019 at the earliest.

"We do know that we will not take the CSeries under our original schedule," says Bastian. CS100 deliveries were scheduled to begin this spring.

Delta has postponed the retirement of some of its Boeing MD-88 aircraft to fill the gap left by the CS100, he says. However, it will not have clarity over how many aircraft it will need to keep flying and for how long until after the decision by the ITC.

The carrier plans to retire its MD-88s by 2020, replacing them primarily with larger Airbus A321s and Boeing 737-900ERs.

Delta plans to base its CSeries in Los Angeles, New York and Seattle when they do arrive, executives have said. Likely routes include ones currently operated by 70- and 76-seat regional jets to Texas from these markets.

The airline is scheduled to take delivery of 49 aircraft in 2018, including 26 A321s, five Airbus A350-900s and 18 737-900ERs, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows.

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