Delta interested in new mid-size Boeing jet, despite trade spat

By Alana Wise

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines Inc said on Tuesday that Boeing Co's anticipated new mid-market jet is an "interesting concept," in an early indication the carrier is not harboring ill will over a recent trade row with the planemaker.

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that the No. 2 U.S. airline wants to be one of the first customers for the developing Boeing jet, citing a posting from Chief Executive Ed Bastian on Delta's internal website.

Delta declined to comment on the Bloomberg report, but expressed interest in the proposed new plane series.

"Delta finds it to be an interesting concept and could be a long-term replacement for some 757s and 767s," spokesman Morgan Durrant said. "Delta is actively engaged with Boeing on this and we will continue a healthy dialogue with them as the program matures."

Boeing did not share details on specific conversations with Delta or other potential buyers, but a spokesman for the Chicago-based planemaker said it was engaging with its customers, who have expressed interest in a plane fitting the proposed new model.

"We've engaged with our customers and the feedback we've received is the desire for an airplane that's bigger than the 757 with more range," spokesman Tom Kim said.

The future of Boeing and Delta's relationship seemed unsure in recent months after Boeing rallied the federal government to impose stiff duties on a Delta order of Canadian-made Bombardier Inc narrowbody jets.

A U.S. international trade body ruled against Boeing in the complaint earlier this year, sparing the sale from a nearly 300 percent tariff.

Analysts had speculated the acrimonious dispute, which highlighted growing trade tensions between the United States and Canada, could permanently sour the relationship between Delta and Boeing and push the airline to favor European planemaker Airbus on future jet orders.

The new Boeing jet program, called the New Mid-market Airplane by Boeing or the "797" by analysts, would seat 200-270 passengers and have a range of 5,000 nautical miles.

If developed, Boeing said it would expect the program to enter service in the middle of the next decade.

(Reporting by Alana Wise; Editing by David Gregorio, Meredith Mazzilli and Diane Craft)

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