What to do with $4B worth of airplanes you didn't actually order

Northwest Airlines placed the order. Now they don't exist.

Way back in 2005, Northwest Airlines put in an order with Boeing for some new planes.

The airline wanted to get 18 of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner aircraft – touted as being fuel efficient with lower CO2 emissions, able to seat anywhere from 220 to 330 passengers. It's used by dozens of airlines, and been flown on hundreds of routes.

Except now Northwest Airlines doesn't exist, and the company that took over doesn't want the estimated $4 billion in Dreamliners anymore.

Delta – which bought the Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines in 2008 – said this week it reached a deal with Boeing to cancel that 11-year-old order for the Dreamliners.

Delta didn't give a reason, with one executive calling it a "business decision" in the statement.

Bloomberg says the value of the 18 Dreamliners is $4 billion based on list prices.

Delta had inherited the deal when it purchased Northwest, and was stuck figuring out what to do with it. And in 2010, it told Boeing to delay the delivery of the new planes until at least 2020.

Because of that, people aren't really shocked that this ended up happening, with the blog One Mile at a Time calling it "not surprising." The blog also mentioned Delta has 25 A350 Airbus planes on order for the near future too, plus some A330s from the same company.

Not that Delta is done with Boeing: It still plans to get the rest of its order for 120 737-900ER aircraft.

Delta’s relationship with Minnesota

Delta is based in Atlanta, but is a huge player at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – and as mentioned about, bought Eagan-based Northwest Airlines eight years ago. MSP is considered one of Delta’s hubs, and it’s one of the biggest airlines there.

Delta has about 80,000 employees worldwide – about 8,500 of them in Minnesota, the state’s economics department says, making them one of the largest employers.

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