Delta plans to lease Boeing 717 aircraft, if pilots OK agreement

ATLANTA — Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines has agreed to lease 88 Boeing 717 aircraft currently in use by Southwest Airlines‘ subsidiary AirTran Airways, but the deal is contingent upon Delta pilots ratifying a labor agreement.

Delta wants to use the Boeing 717 aircraft to replace DC-9 aircraft and 50-seat regional jets. According to a news release from the airline, the proposed agreement also gives Delta “additional flexibility to acquire up to 70 larger two-class, 76-seat regional jets as the Boeing 717 aircraft are delivered to Delta.”

Currently, Delta flies 255 larger two-class regional jets, but the size of that fleet would grow to 325 aircraft.

“These actions pave the way for us to restructure and upgauge our domestic fleet, which will lower our costs, provide more pilot jobs and improve the onboard experience for our customers,” Delta CEO Richard Anderson said in a news release. “The addition of the Boeing 717s, additional large regional jets and the planned replacement of 50-seat aircraft continue Delta’s commitment to operating an efficient, flexible domestic fleet that offers customers even more opportunities to upgrade to our First Class and Economy Comfort cabins.”

Pilots have until June 30 to review and approve the agreement, Delta said. If ratified, the agreement would take effect July 1, 2012, and would be amendable starting Dec. 31, 2015.

“Delta, our pilots and ALPA continue to benefit from a very constructive, proactive relationship, one that is unprecedented in our industry,” Mike Campbell, executive vice president – Human Resources and Labor Relations, said in a news release. “This tentative agreement represents an investment in our pilots and our company as it gives Delta significant fleet flexibility, the ability to continue running a reliable operation for our customers, and a profitable enterprise for shareholders and for all Delta people. The fleet changes provided by this agreement, coupled with the productivity and profit sharing changes, cover the investments in our employees.

“We strongly support the Delta MEC’s endorsement and are optimistic that Delta pilots will ratify the tentative agreement,” Campbell added.

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