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

A Delta Air Lines jet lands at BWI Thurgood Marshall International Airport near Baltimore, Maryland October 24, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
A Delta Air Lines jet lands at BWI Thurgood Marshall International Airport near Baltimore, Maryland October 24, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

By Alwyn Scott

(Reuters) - Delta Air Lines 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 of smaller jets if all such subsidies were eliminated, the 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, Delta CEO Richard Anderson said in an interview with Reuters.

"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 have my competitors in the marketplace than Delta," he added.

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

Last month Delta sued the Ex-Im bank to stop such support of wide-body jet sales, affecting Boeing's 777 and 787 planes, noting especially Emirates airline and Korean Air as among the biggest buyers who do not need U.S. government support. 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.

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; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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