Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian says the airline would be a "prime launch candidate" for Boeing's proposed New Mid-market Airplane (NMA).

The Atlanta-based carrier is in discussions with the airframer on the potential aircraft with Bastian himself meeting with Boeing executives in Seattle to discuss it during the week of 5 March, he says at the JP Morgan Aviation, Transportation and Industrials Conference today.

The NMA family will seat 220-270 passengers with a range of roughly 5,000nm (9,260km) when it enters service, which Boeing expects in the 2024-25 timeframe.

Delta will need to replace its 127 757s and 79 767s, two aircraft the NMA is targeted as a replacement for, in the second half of the next decade, says Bastian.

The airline configures its 757s, including the -200 and -300, with up to 234 seats and its 767s, including the -300ER and -400ER, with up to 261 seats, its website shows.

Delta operates 111 757-200s with an average age of 21.3 years, 16 757-300s that average 15.1 years, 58 767-300ERs that average 21.9 years, and 21 767-400ERs that average 17.2 years, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows.

"We would be a prime launch candidate for the [NMA] aircraft, the 797 or whatever they decide to call it," says Bastian.

His comments come about a month after reports that he told pilots that the carrier hoped to launch the NMA programme.

Boeing has yet to officially launch the programme, though it created a dedicated office to study and develop the NMA in September 2017.

"Now, it's about closing the business case," said Randy Tinseth, vice-president of marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, on the aircraft earlier in March.

Landing Delta as the launch customer of the NMA would be a notable win for Boeing. Since 2014, the majority of the airline's orders have been for Airbus aircraft, with firm commitments for 242 aircraft from the European airframer compared to just 20 firm from Boeing.

United Airlines, which also has a large fleet of aging 757s and 767s, is also interested in the NMA. The airline's chief financial officer Andrew Levy told FlightGlobal earlier in March that it has a "high degree of interest" in the NMA.

Foreign carriers, including Copa Airlines and Qantas Airways, have also expressed interest in the NMA.

Source: Cirium Dashboard