Delta Air Lines has narrowed down its options for a planned widebody order to either the Airbus A350-900 or the Boeing 787-9, says chief executive Richard Anderson.

“We’re in the process of either choosing a 787-9 or an A350-900,” he said during a speech at Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport Foundation on 24 September, based on a recording provided by Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Kristen Leigh Painter. “The important thing about that is that fleet is going to unlock the longer haul markets.”

Delta began evaluating options for an up to 50 widebody aircraft order to replace the 16 Boeing 747-400s and majority of the 58 Boeing 767-300ERs in its fleet in April. Only aircraft currently offered by airframers, including the Airbus A330-200 and -300, A350-900 and -1000, Boeing 777-300ER and 787-8, -9 and -10, were being considered, it said.

Anderson’s comments in Minneapolis were the first indication that the Atlanta-based carrier has narrowed its search.

Delta was widely expected to take advantage of steep end-of-line discounts on either the current generation A330s or 777s for at least a portion of the order. Airbus plans to introduce the first A330neo in 2017 and Boeing the first 777X in 2020.

“The most clarifying remark I could make is we like very low prices,” said Anderson on the status of the order in July.

Anderson had previously spoken positively about the Dreamliner.

“We’re hopeful that the 787-9, with all the lessons learned on the -8, is going to be a really viable airplane,” he said in June.

Virgin Atlantic Airways will take delivery of its first 787-9 in the next few weeks with plans to introduce the type on the Atlanta-London Heathrow route in October. This will allow Delta, which owns 49% of the carrier, to get an operator's view on the aircraft and could potentially influence its pending order.

Jeff Arinder, vice-president of partner development at Delta, told Airline Business in July that it is "always good" to have a partner that operates an aircraft they are evaluating.

Delta is expected to make a decision in the fourth quarter and announce an order before the end of the year.

Source: Cirium Dashboard