It seems as though at some point Delta is going to need a more appropriate 767-300 replacement for thin international routes, particularly when you look at the new Seattle hub.
Delta's stated publicly that they see the A330-300 and A330-900neo orders as 767 replacements, and that the A350-900 is the 747 replacement. But there are huge seat gaps for both, and I'm not buying that the 330 is sufficient to fully retire the 767. In DL
A330-300 - 293 seats (replaces 767-300 - 226 seats)
A330-900 - 293 seats (replaces 767-300 - 226 seats)
A350-900 - 321 seats (replaces 747-400 - 376 seats)
On a route like SEA
, where Delta is having trouble filling a 767 as it is, the A330 is going to simply be too much airplane.
In a pretty typical configuration, the 787-8 would land somewhere very close to the 767-300 in seat count. ANA configures theirs to 222, UA
to 219 - it's pretty reasonable to expect Delta would be similar. The 787-8 makes a much better 767 replacement for thin Asian routes than any of the Airbus aircraft they currently have on order.
The trick is going to be acquisition costs. The very routes that the 788 would serve well are routes that are struggling, and the capital expenditure of new aircraft to support them is going to be difficult to justify at current fuel costs.
In another thread, another poster pointed out the 787-8 order book is a little weak and that many airlines taking it are smaller, less well known carriers. It wouldn't surprise me if Delta opportunistically picks up 787-8 aircraft at some point - but I'm guessing it will be through opportunistic used aircraft purchases from failing operators, not through the orders currently on the books with Boeing.
It's pretty easy to imagine a combo deal where Boeing arranges for DL to take aircraft off their hands from another operator in conjunction with discounts on a few new-build frames too, though...
Just my $0.02.
[Edited 2015-03-31 14:29:31]