Bombardier Aerospace received a major boost for its sagging CRJ regional jet program on Thursday, when Delta Air Lines placed a firm order for 40 dual-class CRJ900s and reserved options on another 30. The deal, worth as much as $3.29 billion at list prices, comes as Delta looks toward the next phase of its domestic fleet restructuring, a process to involve the removal of 60 more 50-seat CRJ200s from the fleets of its regional affiliates in favor of the 76-seat CRJ900s. Delta’s plans call for a so-called “capacity neutral” transition. Bombardier has agreed to help Delta “re-market” the 60 CRJ200s.
This announcement follows previously announced transactions supporting Delta’s domestic fleet optimization plan, including the addition of 88 Boeing 717-200s mainly to replace 50-seat aircraft and the acquisition of 100 new Boeing 737-900ER jets to replace Boeing 757 and 767s. Delta plans to start taking delivery of CRJ900s, 717-200s and 737-900ERs in the second half of next year.
Delta Connection carriers now fly 466 CRJ Series aircraft—286 CRJ200s, 79 CRJ700s and 101 CRJ900s. Delta Connection affiliate Pinnacle Airlines flies 57 CRJ900s, St. George-Utah-based SkyWest flies 28 of the 76-seat jets and SkyWest subsidiary ExpressJet (formerly Atlantic Southeast Airlines) flies 16.
Bombardier’s backlog for its CRJ Series had fallen to 67 as of the end of September, by which time it had delivered only seven of the regional jets during the year. The Delta deal potentially more than doubles the number of airplanes in its unfilled order book and raises the prospect of a recovery in production rates at its plant in Dorval, Quebec.