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Delta to confirm CRJ200 orders

PAUL LEWIS / WASHINGTON DC

Airline's regional operation expected to firm up delivery positions ahead of United Airlines' 50-seater decision

Delta Air Lines' regional operation Delta Connection is expected to firm up additional orders for Bombardier CRJ200s at the Paris air show. It aims to secure delivery positions for next year, ahead of United Airlines' decision on the number of 50-seaters, either on order or option, its Express regional carriers will take.

It is believed the additional aircraft will go to Atlanta-based Connection carrier Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) rather than than the carrier's Cincinnati-based Comair operation, but the numbers of additional CRJ200s to which Delta will commit is unclear.

Other than 23 CRJ700s scheduled for delivery next year, Delta Connection has no regional jets on order beyond the end of this year, by which time its CRJ200 fleet will have grown to 226 aircraft.

When Delta placed its order in 2000 for 69 CRJ200s and 25 CRJ700s, it took options on another 406 aircraft for delivery by 2010, 362 of which have still to be exercised. These include 27 CRJ200s and five CRJ700 options with delivery positions in 2004, another 68 combined 50- and 70-seaters in 2005 and 63 more in 2006.

For the carrier to maintain regional growth and continue replacing ASA's remaining ATR 72s and Embraer EMB-120 Brasilias, it needs to firm up orders soon to secure deliveries in 2002. United's three United Express feeder carriers, Air Wisconsin, Atlantic Coast Airlines and Skywest, collectively still have orders, reconfirmable orders and options on a large number of 50-seaters for delivery in 2004, but are waiting on the bankruptcy-protected mainline carrier to decide on how many are needed.

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