Delta Is Said to Consider Delaying $3 Billion Airbus Order

  • Move underscores obstacles for marquee A350 jet in U.S. market
  • Carrier could postpone 10 wide-body deliveries for three years

Delta Air Lines Inc. is considering postponing delivery of 10 Airbus SE A350 jetliners valued at about $3 billion, even as the carrier prepares for the first arrival of the new flagship aircraft, people familiar with the plans said.

While Delta will take five A350-900s this year as planned, it wants to postpone deliveries slated for 2019 and 2020 by three years, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified since the talks are private.

The Atlanta-based airline has been reviewing whether it needs the 50 wide-body aircraft on order from the planemaker as it attempts to balance international flying capacity with demand.

The move underscores the difficulty that Airbus has faced with its marquee jet in the U.S. -- the largest aviation market and a Boeing Co. stronghold. United Continental Holdings Inc. has cooled on a larger model of the twin-engine plane, and American Airlines Group Inc. said last month that it would put arrival of its first A350 on hold a second time, to late 2020.

Spokesmen for Delta and Airbus declined to comment.

Airbus has drawn raves from airlines and passengers for the A350, its counterpart to Boeing’s carbon-composite 787 Dreamliner and hot-selling 777 twin-engine aircraft. The A350 boasts a roomy interior and 25 percent fuel savings from its long-range competitor, thanks to state-of-the art engines and light-weight frame, according to the Toulouse, France-based planemaker.

Delta plans to outfit its planes with specially designed business-class seats featuring a sliding door at each suite. The A350-900’s current list price is $311 million, although discounts are customary.

Dreamliner’s Wake

The A350’s entry into the commercial market in early 2015 was more than three years after the Dreamliner’s debut. The Airbus jet has faced obstacles ranging from cabin-equipment shortages that have forced delays, to inexpensive fuel sapping airline demand for more-efficient planes.

The jet’s popularity led to long wait times for customers. In the meantime, some big U.S. carriers have changed management and fleet strategies since ordering their A350s earlier this decade.

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