Yesterday came the news that Delta Air Lines will purchase 100 B737-900ER to begin the replacement cycle of it's narrowbody fleet. Until there is an official press release from the airline, it is rumours, but let us assume that the information is accurate.
Scott Hamilton is certain that Delta will have conversion rights to switch to the reengined version (the B737-9 as it stands now). If true, this little detail could hurt Boeing
in the long run. Airbus, until now, successfully refrained from letting airlines convert orders for the "classic" or "standard" model to the "neo" - at least officially. If now Boeing starts to give one airline a right to convert to the reengined version, that could lead to some others with existing orders also calling for that right, especially all those who have ordered B737 after Airbus came out with the neo in December 2010.
At Dec 1st, 2010 the B737 backlog stood at 2173 aircraft. At the current and future planned production rates the backlog reached out towards the end of 2015. The reengined version will not hit the market before mid-2016, probably more towards 2017.
Surprisingly, Airbus managed to get more orders for the "Classic" since the "neo" launch than Boeing did for the B737NG family.
Boeing got 198 orders for the B737NG (plus 100 from AA for the reengined B737). Airbus meanwhile got 223 orders with more probably hitting the order book soon (88 for China, 28 for Qantas, 12 from TAM, 15 from Garuda, 5 from Thai). So as the A320neo has it's EIS in late 2015, the "Classic" order book extends well into 2016 - a comfortable position on the one hand, but difficult to get new substantial orders, as not large numbers of delivery positions are available until probably 2018.
For Boeing it is the other way round: they can provide airlines looking for new narrowbodies with delivery positions in 2015 and 2016, but must convince them to take the NG model at a time when the first neo's roll out of the Airbus factories. We will see where this ends...
A victim of the B737-900ER order, as it looks today, is Bombardier and the CSeries. Hopes in Montreal where high for a substantial order. Scott Hamilton reports that Delta is worried to take too much debt, so one could think once the economic situation gets better the order would actually happen. Another option would be to take the CSeries through lease arrangements. LCI would for sure be happy to secure a customer for their aircraft and could immediately firm up their options. Let's see what happens: even Embraer could play a role here, maybe step in with a reengined version of the E195 in the last minute just as Boeing did in the AA competition...