Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian reaffirmed his interest in the Boeing new mid-market aircraft (NMA), which he dubbed the 797, but is far less certain of the need for another potential new airliner that Boeing unveiled this week, a Mach 5 hypersonic aircraft.

During a fireside chat at the National Press Club in Washington DC June 27, Bastian was asked about both aircraft.

On NMA, Bastian repeated what he has said at investor conferences, saying Delta has had discussions with Boeing about potentially being a launch customer.

“We are not in decision-making types of stage; it’s still in the discussion phase,” he said. “But when we look at our fleet, we need a successor to our 767s as well as our 757s. The majority of those will retire in the next decade and we would like to see some of the new aircraft technologies that have been created being brought into the market segment for the 797.

“I think Boeing wants to get a feel for the market place. To launch a new airplane is extremely expensive.”

Asked what Delta would most be looking for, Bastian quipped “the cheapest price possible”, but he also noted it needed the right balance of range and capacity. “We don’t want to over build,” he said.

Earlier this week, Boeing unveiled a concept vehicle for a Mach 5 airliner capable of crossing the Atlantic in two hours, or the Pacific in three.

But Bastian was skeptical of the market for such an aircraft.

“There will be a market segment that will desire it, but the question is what is the size of that segment and what’s the premium it will be prepared to pay for it?,” he said.

Bastian added that democratization of the global air transport industry was one of its “great successes”, enabling people who previously could not have afforded to fly to enjoy airline travel.

“For myself, I am a proponent of making [air travel] easy to access to more people rather than spending a lot of money for a premium market,” he said.

Karen Walker