UPDATE 1-Delta in talks to acquire dozens of small narrowbody jets - sources

Thu Apr 7, 2016 10:39am EDT
 
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PARIS/MONTREAL, April 7 (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines is in talks with planemakers that could lead to the acquisition of dozens of small narrowbody jets, industry sources said.

The Atlanta-based airline has said it needs to phase out as many as 120 older aircraft as it trades up from regional to larger mainline jets with 100 or more seats.

Industry sources said Canada's Bombardier is pushing particularly hard for a deal for its struggling new CSeries aircraft after losing out to Boeing at United Airlines earlier this year.

A U.S.-based Delta employee who spoke on condition of anonymity said Bombardier executives were in Atlanta this week.

He could not say whether Delta would buy the CSeries because the "negotiations are ongoing".

It was not immediately clear how widespread the talks were at this stage, nor whether the airline had yet decided on the shape or size of a potential order, which some industry sources estimated could involve as many as 50 to 100 aircraft.

"Delta has been evaluating new and used aircraft acquisition opportunities in the roughly 100-seat gauge as we've continued to replace our 50-seat regional fleet with larger, more customer friendly mainline aircraft," an airline spokesman said.

Last month Delta CEO-elect Ed Bastian told a JPMorgan investor conference that it would need more small narrowbody planes in the same category as the 110-130-seat CSeries.

"We have 120 MD-80s that need to be retired over the next five years. So ... there's still a considerable need there."

Such a deal could be attractive for Bombardier, Embraer of Brazil, as well as the smaller types of Airbus or Boeing jetliners. None of the planemakers agreed to comment. (Reporting by Allison Lampert, Tim Hepher, Jeffrey Dastin, Alwyn Scott; Editing by Greg Mahlich)