March 5 (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines is planning to replace one-third of its mainline fleet in the next five years, while still deciding whether or not to invest in struggling Italian carrier Alitalia, Chief Executive Ed Bastian said on Tuesday.
Delta's decision on its fleet replacements, which it said would not change its capex guidance, will pit U.S. manufacturer Boeing Co against its European rival Airbus SE.
Further out, Delta also needs to replace almost 200 Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft, a category that Boeing Co is targeting with a potential new midsize plane, known as the NMA.
Speaking at a J.P. Morgan conference, Bastian said Delta is "very interested" in the NMA and was in preliminary discussions with Boeing on it.
Boeing is weighing whether or not to launch the new program next year.
"Hopefully they'll decide to go," Bastian said.
Airbus is also targeting that category with a spruced up version of its A321.
Bastian said it was too early to decide whether or not to invest in Alitalia and said that the numbers being thrown around so far are "pretty large" and "not the kind of numbers that we're considering, just to quell any concerns."
Italy's state-controlled railway Ferrovie dello Stato (FS) said last month it would start negotiations with Delta and easyJet to draft a rescue plan for the struggling airline. (Reporting by Tracy Rucinski Editing by Phil Berlowitz)