January 19, 2016 / 6:23 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-Delta CEO says mulling purchase of Bombardier CSeries jets

(Adds Bombardier stock movement, analyst quote, background, comment from Bombardier)

Jan 19 (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines Inc is considering whether to purchase Bombardier’s CSeries aircraft, the carrier’s chief executive said on Tuesday, in what could be a headline-grabbing win for the planemaker’s new flagship jet.

Canada’s Bombardier hopes to find a major customer to give momentum to the single-aisle CSeries as it prepares the jet to enter service after years of delays and cash problems.

“We actually think at the right price it’s quite a competitive airplane, particularly given the engine technology,” Delta Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson said on the airline’s quarterly conference call with investors. “We’re taking a very serious look at it.”

Delta, the third-largest U.S. airline by capacity, previewed the jet in late December at its Atlanta headquarters.

Bombardier stock was up more than 3 percent in midday trading. A spokeswoman for the Montreal-based plane and train-maker said Bombardier’s sales campaign to airlines for the CSeries has gained momentum since the aircraft’s certification in December.

“We are a top contender in several key campaigns,” spokeswoman Marianella de la Barrera said by phone from Toronto.

In a separate campaign, larger rival Boeing Co looks well placed to snatch at least part of a deal for about 30 small jets from United Continental Holdings Inc, worth around $2 billion at list prices.

Still, a deal with United has not been finalised and could face last-minute shifts in negotiations with competing bidders like Bombardier and rival Embraer SA.

One aviation analyst said Delta, now looking to replace some of its aging narrowbodies is a potential customer for the CSeries aircraft. But Bombardier faces rivals with “deep-pockets” that are aggressively competing on price.

Delta’s fleet of 57 A319-100s had an average age of 13.7 years as of Sept. 30, 2015, according to an airline quarterly filing.

“Several American carriers are looking at the CSeries,” said the analyst, who spoke on condition that his name not be published because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “The question is who moves first.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Bombardier said it was ramping up the CSeries program to full production, with pilots from launch customer Swiss International Airlines kicking off aircraft flight training. The 110 seater CS100 is scheduled to enter into service during the second quarter of 2016. (Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in New York and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by James Dalgleish and David Gregorio)

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