Might some 787 deliveries happen sooner than expected?

Back when Delta acquired Northwest Airlines one of the interesting discussions was about their fleet.  Specifically they had very little fleet commonality.  On the plus side, such an arrangement allowed them to integrate their pilots pretty easily since no one was too much at risk of losing a job to someone from the other side.  On the down side, however, it raised all sorts of questions about the future of the fleet, which planes would be retired and which new planes would be joining the fleet.

Northwest was to be the North American launch customer for the 787 Dreamliner.  I even saw one on the assembly line back in March with the Northwest logo on the bit of the tail that was already painted.  And officially they still are such.  But since the acquisition closed earlier this summer those plans have been put into a bit of limbo.

That was magnified this week when the carrier’s CFO, Hank Halter, suggested that the carrier is not interested in adding any more new aircraft orders to their fleet plans.  That might not be huge news or even count the 18 pending 787 deliveries out, but there are some other bits that suggest the Dreamliner may not fly anytime soon with a widget on the tail.

In a recent regulatory filing Delta didn’t include the 787s in their fleet plan through 2012.  Even the most pessimistic folks I know don’t think that the 787 delays will stretch that long.  Executives have also repeatedly stated that the current 777 fleet can meet the carrier’s needs and also that they have not allocated capital for the acquisition of the Dreamliners previously ordered by Northwest.

Those orders supposedly can be converted to 777 orders so maybe that’s the way Delta will go.  With all the delays and then the consolidation it isn’t too surprising that Delta is willing to walk away from those aircraft right now.  What will Boeing do with the delivery slots?  Hard to say.  I’m sure there are some customers who are quite anxious to get a few now planes in their fleet sooner than not so they’ll most likely find a home.  But not with Delta.  At least that doesn’t seem likely right now.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.