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Delta still in 787 talks with Boeing

Delta Air Lines says it "remains in serious discussions" with Boeing over delivery schedules of the 787, and that its order for 18 aircraft remains on the books.

Carrier executive Ed Bastian today during the JP Morgan Aviation and Transportation Conference explained Delta's listing of the aicraft as options rather than firm orders in a regulatory filing relased in early March was a formality. The carrier wouldbe operating some of the aircraft now "if Boeing had been able to deliver them," he says. The planes had been set for delivery starting in the fourth quarter of 2009.

The order was orginally placed by Northwest Airlines, who merged with Delta in October 2008 and is now a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Delta.

Bastian also notes Delta is in the market for second-hand aircraft, saying, "We have our eye on a handful of used narrowbody aircraft," but would not specify the model "so we don't weaken our negotiating posture".

The carrier intends to hold on to some 40-50 of Northwest's DC-9s but will move ahead with retirements of others.

Bastian insists that the integration of Northwest and Delta is "going very smoothly" and vows that "exactly a year from now, we will be a single airline". The carrier will begin its 'cross-fleeting' in April, "moving larger Northwest shells into Atlanta and New York and moving smaller Delta planes into Detroit", he says. Some 24 of the planes in Northwest's fleet have been painted in the Delta livery and 107 airport stations integrated and rebranded.

Outlining projections for the first quarter, Bastian says Delta's total unit revenues will fall 10% as operating revenues are expected to drop by 14%. The carrier announced a plan to cut its Atlantic and Pacific capacity by 10% later this year, which he describes as "getting ahead of the slowdown".

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