By Eric M. Johnson
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines Inc Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said on Tuesday he was confident U.S. planemaker Boeing Co would resolve issues relating to its 737 MAX jet following two deadly crashes involving that type of aircraft.
Delta does not own the MAX, which was flown in the United States by its rivals Southwest Airlines Co, American Airlines Group Inc and United Airlines until a global grounding last month following an Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10. That came five months after a similar crash involving Indonesia's Lion Air. All on board both were killed.
The global 737 MAX suspension came as Boeing was moving toward the decision of a decade: whether to launch an all-new jet programme with a niche midsized airplane, known so far as the NMA.
Boeing's proposal was aimed at addressing the so-called middle of the jet market, between traditional narrowbody jets with one aisle like the 737 and long-distance widebody planes like the 787.
Speaking at an aviation conference in Atlanta, Bastian said Delta was "very interested" in Boeing's proposed new midsized airplane, though he said the world's largest planemaker was focussing first on dealing with the crisis surrounding the MAX.
Bastian has said that Delta was looking to replace some 200 Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft over the next decade as it seeks to grow internationally.
He declined to comment on Tuesday on whether Delta would invest in Italy's flag carrier Alitalia. The Italian government has been seeking a buyer to save the airline, which was put under special administration in 2017 after a series of failed rescue plans.
Atlanta-based Delta is due to publish first-quarter results on Wednesday.
Its shares have surged about 10 percent since the No. 2 U.S. airline raised its first-quarter profit estimate earlier this month on the back of strong business travel demand.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Writing by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Bernadette Baum)