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Delta Airlines wants to stop Ex-Im help on big jets

A passenger waits for his flight near a Delta Air Lines logo at Detriot Airport November 20, 2010. REUTERS/Sim Wei Yang
A passenger waits for his flight near a Delta Air Lines logo at Detriot Airport November 20, 2010. REUTERS/Sim Wei Yang

By Alwyn Scott

(Reuters) - Delta Air Lines Inc wants the U.S. Export-Import Bank to stop helping state-owned foreign airlines buy wide-body jets from Boeing Co , and would be willing to forgo such support for its own purchases if all such subsidies were eliminated, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

"We would be perfectly willing, if we had a total moratorium on narrow-body and wide-body financing, to forego" export credit help on narrow-body jet purchases from Bombardier , Delta CEO Richard Anderson said in an interview with Reuters.

In December, Delta ordered 40 Bombardier CRJ900 regional jets with an option for 30 more in a deal worth up to $3.29 billion.

"We are trying to do whatever we can to get a level playing field in a world where my government decides that they would rather help my competitors in the marketplace than Delta," he added.

Airlines with good credit can get market-rate funding without "giving them the balance sheet of the U.S. government," Anderson said.

Delta sued the Ex-Im bank last month in an effort to stop support for Boeing's 777 and 787 planes, noting that Emirates airline and Korean Air are among the aircraft's biggest buyers and do not need U.S. government aid. Delta was joined in the lawsuit by the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 47,000 pilots at 28 U.S. airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines, the largest carrier in Hawaii.

The U.S. Ex-Im Bank said its policies supported some 85,000 U.S. aerospace jobs last year.

"As long as other export credit agencies around the world continue to support their aerospace companies, Ex-Im will continue to provide financing to ensure a level-playing field for American companies and to prevent a loss of jobs here at home," the bank said in a statement emailed on Wednesday.

In the interview, Anderson said he is not opposed to the Ex-Im Bank in general, or export credits for sales of smaller, narrow-body jets if the export credit system was reformed.

But he said it was wrong for the U.S. to decide that manufacturers such as Boeing are more deserving of export credits than airlines and other travel services companies.

"I don't think there is any good rationale for deciding that any manufacturing production in the U.S. is more important than travel and tourism, which is a much bigger contributor to GDP in the U.S. than manufacturing," he said.

In its lawsuit, Delta says that about 46 percent of the $106.6 billion in U.S. Ex-Im Bank's current financial commitments are for aircraft loans or loan guarantees.

(Reporting by Alwyn Scott in Seattle,; additional reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris and Doug Palmer in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Bernard Orr and Leslie Gevirtz)

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